Individual differences in young children's recall and clustering of pictures

Steven R. Yussen, Joel R. Levin, Thomas M. DeRose, Elizabeth S. Ghatala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Children's incidental recall of pictures was examined in two related experiments. Extrapolating from adult research, it was predicted that categorizing pictures with respect to their semantic properties would yield greater recall than categorizing them according to their physical properties. In Experiment 1, second-grade children were exposed to 16 line drawings cross-classified to represent four taxonomic categories and four shape categories, with four instances per category. Control subjects simply looked at pictures. Semantic subjects identified each picture's semantic category, and Physical subjects identified each physical category. In Experiment 2, first graders freely sorted the pictures and were classified as Semantic or Physical sorters based on their predominant bases for sorting. Following exposure (Experiment 1) or sorting (Experiment 2), all subjects were asked to recall the picture names. Results of both experiments show that semantic classification yields greater recall than physical classification. Experiment 2 also shows that semantic sorting yields greater semantic clustering in recall and that sorting by physical category yields greater physical clustering. It was suggested that children's preferences for a mode of processing (Experiment 2) may constitute an individual difference dimension with fairly clear-cut instructional implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-179
Number of pages10
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1976

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Wisconsin Research and Development Center for Cognitive Learning, supported in part as a research and development center by funds from the National Institute of Education. The opinions herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the National Institute of Education and no official endorsement by the National Institute of Education should be inferred. Center No. NE/C-00-3-0065. We are grateful to the staff and students of Our Lady Queen of Peace, and of Blessed Sacrament schools in Madison, Wisconsin for their cooperation during data collection. Send reprint requests to Steven R. Yussen, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706.


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