Children's Serial Recall Errors: Implications for Theories of Short-term Memory Development

Teresa McCormack, Gordon D A Brown, Janet I. Vousden, Richard N A Henson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Three experiments examined developmental changes in serial recall of lists of 6 letters, with errors classified as movements, omissions, intrusions, or repetitions. In Experiments 1 and 2, developmental differences between groups of children aged from 7 to 11 years and adults were found in the pattern of serial recall errors. The errors of older participants were more likely to be movements than were those of younger participants, who made more intrusions and omissions. The number of repetition errors did not change with age, and this finding is interpreted in terms of a developmentally invariant postoutput response inhibition process. This interpretation was supported by the findings of Experiment 3, which measured levels of response inhibition in 7-, 9-, and 11-year-olds by comparing recall of lists with and without repeated items. Response inhibition remained developmentally invariant, although older children showed greater response facilitation (improved correct recall of adjacent repeated items). Group differences in the patterns of other errors are accounted for in terms of developmental changes in levels of output forgetting and changes in the efficiency of temporal encoding processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-252
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Development
  • Distinctiveness
  • Inhibition
  • Rehearsal
  • Short-term memory
  • Speed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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