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Abstract

Associative learning is critical to normal cognitive development in children. However, young adults typically outperform children on paired-associate tasks involving visual, verbal and spatial location stimuli. The present experiment investigated cross-modal odour–place associative memory in children (7–10 years) and young adults (18–24 years). During the study phase, six odours were individually presented and paired with one of 12 spatial locations on a board. During the test phase, participants were presented with the six stimuli individually and were asked to place each stimulus on the correct spatial location. Children committed significantly more errors on the odour–place task than did young adults. However, item recognition memory for the odours or spatial locations involved in the odour–place associative memory task was similar between children and young adults. Therefore, poor odour–place associative memory in children did not result from impaired memory for the individual odours or spatial locations involved in the associations. The results suggest that cross-modal associative memory is not fully developed in children.