Event knowledge and children's recall of television based narratives


Department of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand (e-mail: jlow@matai.vuw.ac.nz). Kevin Durkin can be contacted at (e-mail: kevin@psy.uwa.edu.au).


Recent research has established that young children can rapidly develop scripts for familiar events, and use such scripts to comprehend and recall information. Most of the available research has concerned everyday experiences, but relatively little attention has been paid to children's use of event knowledge in processing media content. A total of 96 children aged, 5, 7, 9 and 11 years participated in a study to investigate developmental reliance upon event knowledge in recalling television based narratives. Children viewed an event based television story presented in a canonical or jumbled version. Their responses to immediate and delayed recall tests were analysed for completeness and sequencing accuracy. In general, children who viewed the canonical version recalled more story units and organized their recall more accurately than children who viewed the jumbled version. Young children tended also to reorder the story units in the jumbled version to preserve canonicity. From 9 years of age onwards, children's recall of the jumbled version was as coherent as that of their same age counterparts who watched the canonical version. These results suggest that young children tend to depend on their event knowledge primarily in its canonical form, and with age children become more flexible in using their event knowledge in recalling routine television narratives.