Does the value of an object influence how children remember it?

    • Topic: Cognitive Development

    • Location: Discovery Center

    Previous research suggests that adults may remember important or “high value” objects as being larger than “low value” objects. We are interested in the validity of this claim, and whether it extends to children. How well will children remember the sizes of both a favorite and a least favorite toy?

    In this study, we show children a toy and then quickly explain that it is either a favorite toy or a least favorite toy (i.e. a high or low value object). We then remove the toy from view and have children complete a one-minute coloring activity. Next, we ask children to pick the “real size” of the toy from a display of subtly differently sized objects. We are curious if the children who see the toy when it is a “favorite” remember it as larger than the children who see it when it is “least favorite”.

    If an object’s subjective value does indeed influence children’s memory, then we expect children to choose larger images for the favorite toy and smaller images for the least favorite toy. These findings can help us understand whether memory is malleable and susceptible to external factors.

    This research is being conducted at the Living Laboratory in the Museum of Science and at the BU Developing Minds Lab, under the direction of Dr. Melissa Kibbe.

        » Developing Minds Lab at Boston University

    Activities to Try in the Discovery Center

    Field Station

    Ask your child to pick their favorite item from the Discovery Center’s collection (e.g., a rock, mineral, fossil, sea shell). At the Field Station, place the object underneath the microscope. Ask your child to look only at the screen and not at the object on the table. Next, help your child resize the image using the microscope controls until the object on the screen appears to be the same size as it is in real life. Once your child has decided on a size for the image, compare their image to the actual size. How close did s/he come to actual size? Try this again with their least favorite object. Is your child’s guess closer or further from the object’s true size?

    Activities to Try at Home

    Snack Time Perceptions

    What is your child’s favorite food? Least favorite? If you have a clear idea (and a standardized food), give your child a blank piece of paper and ask him or her to draw a picture from memory of both foods as close to the real size as possible. Then, you both can compare how close the drawings are to the real size. You may see some larger favorite foods, and smaller “yucky” foods!

Research Spotlight

Contact Living Laboratory staff: