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Developmental Psychology in Memory

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Developmental Psychology in Memory

The development of memories is an active process that changes throughout our lives. Research suggests that memory development stages intensify and change during childhood through adolescence. Once a person reaches a peak age (thought to be in the mid-20s), memory gradually declines. However, illnesses and learning disabilities can affect memory development (such as Alzheimer’s disease and dyslexia).

Brain Head Developmental Psychology in Memory A head with a brain outlined in it depicting memory development StudySmarterMemory development, Flaticon

Memory development in childhood

When we are born, our cognitive abilities, such as memory, develop gradually. Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012) tested this development by investigating the capacity of the phonological loop from childhood to adolescence.

  • The study was conducted on 570 students aged 5-17 years from Madrid.
  • They divided the participants into five age groups.

  • They recorded the average digit span for each age.

  • They used a standardised procedure.

The Digit Span Test is a test designed to measure the capacity of the phonological loop.

In the Digit Span Test, the researcher reads a sequence of numbers and asks participants to recall the correct order. The length of the sequence increases each time. The test aims to find out how many numbers the participants can remember in the correct sequence.

The results:

The average value for the digit span increases with age. However, there are considerable differences between 5 and 11 years. After this age, however, the capacity of the phonological loop rises steadily. When the average digit span was recorded for each age rather than age group, it was found that the values decreased. For example, at age 15, the average score was 5.82, but at age 16, the average score was 5.75. Overall, age affects the ability to remember a digit span.

Age groupMean digit span score
53.76
6-84.34
9-115.13
12-145.46
15-175.83

Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2010) previously conducted a similar study on the elderly. The results showed that healthy older people aged 6582 years had a mean score of 4.44, while patients with dementia had a mean digit span of 4.20.

Memory development in adolescence

Memory is a cognitive process of great importance in adolescence, during which it develops. The accuracy of memory recall depends on the strategy used to remember the information.In a study by Waters (1982), 8th and 10th-grade students recalled a pair of words. After the recall, researchers asked the participants which of the following strategies they had used to remember the word pairs:

  • Careful reading.

  • Rehearsal.

  • Visual elaboration.

  • Verbal elaboration.

The results found that:

  • Strategy use correlated positively with recall performance at both ages.

  • It was hypothesised that age differences and performance on recall were due to increased strategy effectiveness.

The above two studies suggest the increase in memory capacity and accuracy in childhood is due to the development of the memory process. However, it is due to learning to rehearse and recall memories better in adolescence.

Memory development in the elderly

Research in psychology suggests that cognitive abilities such as memory gradually decline with age. However, this change does not affect all aspects of memory in healthy older people. Psychologists have found that typically:

  • Ageing largely does not affect semantic and procedural memory.

  • Semantic memories of information with meaning, typically about the world and concepts, including everyday knowledge, such as not crossing the street when a car is approaching.

  • Procedural memories of how to do something, e.g., how to cook.
  • Ageing seems to affect episodic, source and flashbulbs memories.

  • Episodic memories of personal experiences, i.e., memories of what, when, and where the event occurred. These include, for example, memories of a fight a person got into when they were 12 years old.

  • Source memories of where and when you learned something. For example, remembering how your father taught you to ride a bike at the park.
  • Flashbulb long-lasting, detailed memory that evokes emotion after experiencing a significant moment. For example, when you learn that a family member has died.

How is memory development affected by mental illnesses and learning disabilities?

Many mental illnesses and learning disabilities can affect memory, such as dyslexia and Alzheimer’s. These are illnesses that affect different age groups of the population.

Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a learning disability that causes problems with reading words and numbers fluently and accurately.

This disability usually begins in childhood or adolescence. People with dyslexia have difficulty processing information and are thought to have a ‘weak’ working memory.Research suggests dyslexia affects many cognitive functions, such as:

  • Impairments in central executive functions (a component of the WMM that sends information to the other components of the model).

    Central executive functions have also been associated with directing attention, concentrating, making decisions, and recalling memories.

  • Visuospatial processing may also be affected (information we see).

  • Phonological processing (information we hear).

Baddeley and Hitch proposed all components of the working memory model (WMM).

Working memory comes into play when we process multiple pieces of information at once. In dyslexia, information is often more scattered, working memory capacity is usually lower, and working memory has difficulty processing this information and transferring it to long-term memory.Since dyslexia primarily affects children and adolescents, they do not follow the typical memory developmental stages of their age group.

Developmental Psychology in Memory Dyslexia StudySmarterDyslexia, Flaticon

Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease affecting cognitive abilities such as memory. Since it is a progressive disease, the memory of Alzheimer’s patients deteriorates over time. This disease mainly affects the elderly population (over 65). Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be the result of atrophy of the brain.

Brain atrophy is the loss of cells and neurons. The brain region with brain atrophy causes this region to lose functions and be less efficient.

Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by memory loss. This can affect:

  • First, the short-term memory.

  • The working memory.

  • Long-term declarative memory.

As a result of memory loss, the disease may also affect other cognitive abilities.

Examples of symptoms that may occur due to memory loss include:

  • Confusion.
  • Personality changes.
  • Difficulty with logic and reasoning.
  • Difficulty with reading.
  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Low moods.
  • Anxiety.

Developmental Psychology in Memory - Key takeaways

  • In human life, the phases of memory development change in childhood and adolescence.
  • In these phases, the capacity of our memory increases - Sebastián and Hernández-Gill (2012) confirm this. In old age, cognitive abilities, such as memory, decrease. Research shows not all forms of memory decline.
  • Diseases and disabilities affect memory development, such as:
    • Dyslexia.
    • Alzheimer’s disease.

Frequently Asked Questions about Developmental Psychology in Memory

Memory development is important because it is a cognitive process needed throughout our lives. For example, learning and remembering how to do things such as dressing yourself, eating, and interacting with others all depend on memory.

Memory types include short-term memory, working memory, long-term memory, and other variants (such as episodic memory and procedural memory). They affect development as they show the different ages with their respective capacities and reflect a developing brain.


Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, and illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, primarily affect the working memory. 

Three types of memory in psychology are:

  • Working memory.
  • Short-term memory.
  • Long-term memory.

An example of a memory in psychology is procedural memory. These are memories used to remember how to do things, such as making tea. 

Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012) show the development of the phonological loop during childhood to adolescents. Memory formation in child development occurs due to the absorption of information, which neurons then store in the brain. These neurons form complex networks and build off of themselves and others (schemas).

Final Developmental Psychology in Memory Quiz

Question

What is the procedure of the Digit Span Test?

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Answer

The digit span test involves the researcher reading a sequence of numbers and asking participants to recall the correct order. The length of the sequence increases each time. 

Show question

Question

What does the Digit Span Test measure? 

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Answer

The capacity of the phonological loop.

Show question

Question

Did each age Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012) tested show an increase in mean digit span score? 

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Answer

Yes.

Show question

Question

Did each age group Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012) tested show an increase in mean digit span score?

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Answer

Yes.

Show question

Question

How do memory strategies affect the memory of adolescents according to Waters (1982)?

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Answer

The use of strategies has a positive correlation with the accuracy of recall.

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Question

What does the research of Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012) and Water (1982) suggest about memory development? 

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Answer

The findings from both researchers suggest that:

  • An increase in the capacity of memories during childhood results from the development of cognitive abilities.
  • An increase in accuracy during adolescence may be due to learning how to rehearse and recall memories better. 

Show question

Question

What was the independent variable in the Waters (1982) study?

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Answer

The type of memory strategy used (e.g., careful reading, rehearsal, visual elaboration and verbal elaboration).

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Question

Which of the following memory types decline in the elderly? 

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Answer

Semantic.

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Question

Which of the following types of memory has been found to decline in the elderly?  


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Answer

Episodic

Show question

Question

Which parts of the working memory model have been found to be impaired in people diagnosed with dyslexia?

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Answer

Central executive.

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Question

What is brain atrophy?

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Answer

Brain atrophy is the loss of cells and neurons. The brain region with brain atrophy causes that region to perform less effectively.

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Question

How is memory affected by Alzheimer’s disease? 

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Answer

As AD is a progressive disease, the stages of memory development of Alzheimer’s disease patients is that memories get worse with time. 

Show question

Question

What types of memories are largely affected by Alzheimer’s disease? 

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Answer

The types of memories that are mostly affected by AD are:

  • Working memory.
  • Long-term declarative memories.

Show question

Question

Which illnesses and disabilities can disrupt the ‘normal’ stages of memory development? 

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Answer

Dyslexia and Alzheimer’s disease cause individuals to not have ‘typical’ stages of memory development. 

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Question

What did Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2010) find, and how did the results differ from their 2012 study?

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Answer

Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2010) found that healthy-elderly people aged between 65–82, had an average digit span score of 4. 44, which is lower than the 9–11 groups scores.

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