A major question in the literature regarding memory development is whether memories of events from early in life are later accessible to verbal report. In a controlled study, we examined this question in toddlers who were 13, 16, or 20 months old at the time of exposure to specific events, and who were evaluated for spontaneous verbal expression of memory after delays of 9 to 12 months (Experiment 1), or 1 to 3 months (Experiment 2). Verbal reports of the events were elicited at the age of 3 years (both experiments). There was little evidence of spontaneous verbal mnemonic expression at the first delayed-recall test; the mnemonic expression that was observed was predicted by concurrent age and concurrent verbal fluency. Children who had been 20 months at the time of first experience of the events, and who were older and more verbally fluent at the first delayed-recall test (i.e., 20-month-olds in Experiment 1), provided verbal evidence of event memory at 3 years. The results are consistent with the suggestion that under some circumstances, early memories later are accessible to verbal report.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by a McKnight-Land Grant professorship, a grant from the Graduate School of the University of Minnesota, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant HD–28425.