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Developmental Trends in Children's Incidental Learning: Some Critical Stimulus Differences NICHD

Hale, Gordon A.; Piper, Richard A.
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Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
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Subject/Key Words:
National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Elementary School Students, Incidental Learning, Learning Processes, Visual Stimuli


Incidental learning in 8- and 12-year-old children was assessed with variety of stimulus materials. Experiment 1 compared two types of material; (a) geometric figures, whose central and incidental components were shape and color, respectively and (b) stimuli whose components were separate pictures, as in the typical developmental study of this topic. Incidental learning was found to increasse significantly across ages when measures with the colored shapes but not with the pictorial materials. To identify the factors responsible for this difference. Experiment 2 employed these same two types of stimulus along with three others, including shape outlines in colored backgrounds. Again, the task with colored shapes proved to be unique, in that the incidental learning scores for this mesure tended to increase across ages and were significantly higher overall than those for the other tasks. Also, correlational analyses based on data from both experiments indicated a positive relation between central and incidental learnig with the colored shapes but not with the pictorial materials. These results were interpreted to suggest that stimulus materials whose components are integrated into a single unit, such as color and shape, are functionally different from stimuli with spatially or conceptually independent components. (Author) (25pp.)

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  • 10.1002/j.2333-8504.1972.tb01023.x