A Psychophysiological Investigation of the Von Restorff Paradigm in Children

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Ten 5th-grade children were asked to memorize series of words. In some of the series, a word was isolated by presenting it in larger font. Event-related brain potentials, elicited by each word were recorded. The subjects showed an enhanced recall of the isolated words in comparison to non-isolated words matched for serial position (the von Restorff effect). The isolated words also elicited P300's of larger amplitude than the non-isolated words. Furthermore, isolated words which were subsequently recalled elicited larger P300's than did isolated words that were not recalled. Finally, the subjects showed an above-chance performance in a following 'size-recall' test. The results are discussed in terms of a model of the von Restorff effect that emphasizes the special encoding of isolated items. Children show a large von Restorff effect because because they do not make extensive use of elaborative rehearsal strategies that may override the effects of the special encoding processes.

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Journal of Psychophysiology, v. 4, p. 15-24.