Development of Holistic Episodic Recollection

Psychol Sci. 2019 Dec;30(12):1696-1706. doi: 10.1177/0956797619879441. Epub 2019 Nov 1.


Episodic memory binds the diverse elements of an event into a coherent representation. This coherence allows for the reconstruction of different aspects of an experience when triggered by a cue related to a past event-a process of pattern completion. Previous work has shown that such holistic recollection is evident in young adults, as revealed by dependency in retrieval success for various associations from the same event. In addition, episodic memory shows clear quantitative increases during early childhood. However, the ontogeny of holistic recollection is uncharted. Using dependency analyses, we found here that 4-year-olds (n = 32), 6-year-olds (n = 30), and young adults (n = 31) all retrieved complex events in a holistic manner; specifically, retrieval accuracy for one aspect of an event predicted accuracy for other aspects of the same event. However, the degree of holistic retrieval increased from the age 4 to adulthood. Thus, extended refinement of multiway binding may be one aspect of episodic memory development.

Keywords: episodic memory; holistic recollection; memory development; open data; open materials; pattern completion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Young Adult