Developmental Changes in Item and Source Memory: Evidence From an ERP Recognition Memory Study With Children, Adolescents, and Adults


  • This research was supported by the German Research Foundation (KI 1399/1-1). The authors wish to thank Michael Kursawe for his assistance during data collection. We are also grateful to the volunteers who participated in this study, especially the children, their parents, and the adolescents.

concerning this article should be addressed to Volker Sprondel, Department of Psychology, Saarland University, P.O. Box 151150, D-66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. Electronic mail may be sent to


Event-related potential (ERP) correlates of item and source memory were assessed in 18 children (7–8 years), 20 adolescents (13–14 years), and 20 adults (20–29 years) performing a continuous recognition memory task with object and nonobject stimuli. Memory performance increased with age and was particularly low for source memory in children. The ERP difference between first presentations of objects and nonobjects, reflecting generic novelty processing, showed only small developmental changes. Regarding item memory, adults showed the putative ERP correlates of familiarity and recollection, whereas ERP effects in children and adolescents suggested a strong reliance on recollection. ERP correlates of source memory refined with age, suggesting maturation of strategic recollection between childhood and adolescence and the development of postretrieval control until adulthood.