How Do the Different Components of Episodic Memory Develop? Role of Executive Functions and Short-Term Feature-Binding Abilities


  • Laurence Picard is now at the Laboratoire de Psychologie et Neuropsychologie Cognitives, University of Paris Descartes, Paris, France. The authors would like to thank the participants and their families for volunteering for this study and Maria Abram for her help in recording the data. They also thank Elisabeth Porthier-Wilkes and Paul Reeve for reviewing for English language accuracy. This research was supported in parts by grants from the Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche.

concerning this article should be addressed to Laurence Picard or Pascale Piolino, Inserm–EPHE–University of Caen/Basse-Normandie, CHU Côte de Nacre, 14000 Caen, France. Electronic mail may be sent to or


This study investigated the development of all 3 components of episodic memory (EM), as defined by Tulving, namely, core factual content, spatial context, and temporal context. To this end, a novel, ecologically valid test was administered to 109 participants aged 4–16 years. Results showed that each EM component develops at a different rate. Ability to memorize factual content emerges early, whereas context retrieval abilities continue to improve until adolescence, due to persistent encoding difficulties (isolated by comparing results on free recall and recognition tasks). Exploration of links with other cognitive functions revealed that short-term feature-binding abilities contribute to all EM components, and executive functions to temporal and spatial context, although ability to memorize temporal context is predicted mainly by age.