The Structure of Events and Event Representations: A Developmental Analysis


  • This research was supported by an Emory University Research Grant to the first author. We are grateful to Winifred Diggs for her help in coding and analyzing the data and, of course, to all the parents and children who participated so willingly in this project. Parts of this research were presented at the biennial meetings of the Society for Research in Child Development, Kansas City, 1989, and at the Southeastern Conference on Human Development, Richmond, VA, 1990.

Please address all correspondence to the first author at Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322.


In this study, we investigated how the temporal order and variability of events influence 3- and 5-year-old children's developing event representations. Children participated in 3 different events: a logical-invariant (making fundough), a logical-variable (shape collage), and an arbitrary-invariant (sand play) event. At each age, half of the children experienced the events once prior to recalling the events both verbally and behaviorally; the other half experienced the events 4 times, recalled the events verbally after each experience, and behaviorally reenacted the events only after the last experience. Children verbally recalled more and organized their recall better for the logical events than for the arbitrary event, and these differences remained stable with increasing experience. The sequencing of behavioral recall was also more accurate for the logical events than for the arbitrary event across age and condition, but amount of recall did not differ, with one exception. 3-year-old children in the single experience condition recalled less about the variable event than the invariant events. The results indicate that both the structure of the event and children's representational capabilities influence children's developing representations of events.