Memory enhancements from active control of learning emerge across development

Azzurra Ruggeri, Douglas B. Markant, Todd M. Gureckis, Maria Bretzke, Fei Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper investigates whether active control of study leads to enhanced learning in 5- to 11-year-old children. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants played a simple memory game with the instruction to try to remember and later recognize a set of 64 objects. In Experiment 3, the goal was to learn the French names for the same objects. For half of the materials presented, participants could decide the order and pacing of study (Active condition). For the other half, they passively observed the study decisions of a previous participant (Yoked condition). Recognition memory was more accurate for objects studied in the active as compared to the yoked condition. However, the active learning advantage was relatively small among 5-year-olds and increased with age, becoming comparable to adults’ by age 8. Our results show that the ability to actively control study develops during early childhood and results in memory benefits that last over a week-long delay. We discuss possible interpretations for the observed developmental change, as well as the implications of these results for educational implementations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-94
Number of pages13
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Active learning
  • Cognitive development
  • Exploration
  • Recognition memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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