Order of Encoding Predicts Young Children's Responses to Sequencing Questions

38 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2020

See all articles by J. Zoe Klemfuss

J. Zoe Klemfuss

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychological Science

Kelly McWilliams

City University of New York - John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Hayden Henderson

USC Gould School of Law

Alma Olaguez

University of California Irvine

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: July 17, 2020

Abstract

We propose that young children exhibit an order of encoding bias, such that they are inclined to report or act out events in the order in which they were originally encoded. This bias helps to explain why children assume that events they first hear described are in chronological order and why they often appear to understand “after” better than “before” when they are questioned about experienced events. Asking children about a sequence of events as a whole (in particular using “first”) could avoid order of encoding biases, because children would not have to answer questions about events within the sequence. In the present study, 100 2- to 4-year-old children participated in creating simple stories in which a story child interacted with five objects, thus creating five unrelated events. Children then responded to questions asking them to identify which action occurred “before” and “after” the third event and which action occurred “first” and “last” in the story. We hypothesized that (1) children would exhibit a tendency to answer “before” and “after” questions with the event that occurred after the queried event, thus impairing performance on “before” questions; (2) children would respond more accurately to questions about what occurred “first” and “last” than to questions about “before” and “after”; (3) children would respond more accurately to questions about “first” than questions about “last,” and (4) children’s performance would improve with age. The hypotheses were supported. Critically, children’s errors when responding to “before”/ “after” questions were consistent with an order of encoding bias.

Suggested Citation

Klemfuss, J. Zoe and McWilliams, Kelly and Henderson, Hayden and Olaguez, Alma and Lyon, Thomas D., Order of Encoding Predicts Young Children's Responses to Sequencing Questions (July 17, 2020). In press, Cognitive Development, USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS20-13, USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 20-13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3654544

J. Zoe Klemfuss (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychological Science ( email )

4201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-7085
United States

Kelly McWilliams

City University of New York - John Jay College of Criminal Justice ( email )

524 W 59th St
New York, NY 10019
United States

Hayden Henderson

USC Gould School of Law ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Alma Olaguez

University of California Irvine ( email )

Division of Nephrology, University of California I
101 City Drive South, City Tower, Suite 400-ZOT;40
Orange, CA California 92868-3217
United States

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-0142 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)

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