The effects of elapsed time and retrieval on young children's judgments of the temporal distances of past events
Young children have very limited knowledge of long-term time patterns, but recent studies show that impressions of temporal distances provide them with some sense of the times of past events. These studies were investigations of (a) the function relating subjective to objective distances in the past for events whose ages range from less than 1 month to 1 year and (b) the effects of retrieving events on their subjective recency. In Study 1, 825 children (5-, 6-, and 7-year-olds) compared the recency of two school events from many months in the past shortly after one of the events was retrieved. In Study 2, 162 children (mean age 4.9 years) judged the distances in the past of their birthdays, summer, and 4 holidays by placing cards on a spatial continuum. In Study 3, 148 children (mean age 4.8 years) performed a similar task after the prior retrieval or priming of some of the events. Subjective temporal distance increased with real distance up to about 5 months, with no evident increase thereafter. Retrieval and priming had no effect on subjective recency. These findings show that early developing characteristics of memory provide young children with a differentiated sense of the times of events from past months. However, simple strength models cannot explain this ability.
Friedman, William J., and Simon Kemp. 1998. "The effects of elapsed time and retrieval on young children's judgments of the temporal distances of past events." Cognitive Development 13(3): 335-367.