Self-derivation through memory integration under low surface similarity conditions: The case of multiple languages

Document Type



A primary objective of development is to build a knowledge base. To accumulate knowledge over time and experiences, learners must engage in productive processes, going beyond what is explicitly given to generate new knowledge. Although these processes are important to accumulating knowledge, they are also easily disrupted. Individuals often depend on surface-level similarities, such as visual features, to recognize the relation between learning episodes. When the surface-level similarity is low, performance on tasks that depend on productive processes, such as self-derivation through integration of new knowledge, suffers. The major purpose of the current research was to examine whether presentation of related information in different languages poses a challenge to memory integration and self-derivation due to low levels of surface similarity between episodes of learning through different languages. In Study 1, 62 children (Grade 2; mean age = 8 years 1 month) listened to story passages containing novel facts that could be integrated to self-derive new knowledge. Related passages were presented either through the same language or through two different languages (cross-language condition; Spanish and English). There were no significant differences between presentation conditions. In Study 2, 100 children (Grades 3 and 4; mean age = 9.7 years) heard novel facts in single sentences, again presented in either a same-language or cross-language condition. Whereas third-grade cross-language performance suffered compared with same-language English controls, fourth-grade performance did not. Results suggest that in addition to language proficiency, rich contextual support and experience in a bilingual environment facilitate cross-language integration.

Publication Title

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology

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bilingual education, elementary children, knowledge extension, memory integration, self-derivation, semantic memory