Priming Implicit Memories

Priming Implicit Memories

Who was the first president of the United States?  That’s right.  George Washington.  That is what we call an explicit memory.  You know exactly where that file is in the storeroom, and you have no trouble retrieving it.

Now let me ask you another question.  Who was the second president of the United States?  You can’t remember?  Okay.  Let me give you a list of names.  Caldwell, Branson, Adams, Davenport.  Ahh…now you remember.  John Adams.  That is what we call an implicit memory.  You created a file, put it in the storeroom, but then you lost track of it.  It’s in there somewhere, but you can’t find it, at least not without help.  And the process of providing assistance with hints and cues is referred to as priming.

These are good ideas to keep in mind when dealing with young children.  It takes them years to develop an efficient storage system and to develop skill in locating what they are looking for.  Consequently, while it may appear that a little one doesn’t remember something, in reality it may be that it is an implicit memory and she may be able to retrieve it with some assistance.

For instance, your three-year-old comes in from playing outside.  You ask, “Where is your jacket?”  She replies, “I don’t know.”  So you say, “Did you leave it at Romp n’ Roll?  She replies, “I don’t know!”  You continue, “Did you leave it on the playground?”  She replies, I DON’T KNOW!!!”  Then you say, “Did you leave it at Sally’s house?”  And she replies, “Yeah!  It’s at Sally’s house!”

So when your child claims she doesn’t remember something, don’t immediately get angry and frustrated.  Patience combined with a bit of priming may often solve the problem.