Effects of Emotional Valence and Concreteness on Children’s Recognition Memory

Frontiers in Psychology 11 (2020)
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There are considerable gaps in our knowledge of how children develop abstract language. In this paper, we tested the Affective Embodiment Account, which proposes that emotional information is more essential for abstract than concrete conceptual development. We tested the recognition memory of 7- and 8-year-old children, as well as a group of adults, for abstract and concrete words which differed categorically in valence. Word valence significantly interacted with concreteness in hit rates of both children and adults, such that effects of valence were only found in memory for abstract words. The pattern of valence effects differed for children and adults: children remembered negative words more accurately than neutral and positive words, whereas adults remembered negative and positive words more accurately than neutral words. In addition, signal detection analysis revealed that children were better able to discriminate negative than positive words, regardless of concreteness. The findings suggest that the memory accuracy of 7- and 8-year-old children is influenced by emotional information, particularly for abstract words. The results are in agreement with the Affective Embodiment Account and with multimodal accounts of children’s lexical development.



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