August Monthly Insight: Memory and the Building Blocks of Knowledge


How do we build a knowledge base over time? One way is through direct experience. For example, a child might learn that red and yellow make orange after watching their art teacher mix the two paint colors together. But direct experiences only account for a portion of what we know. We also build knowledge through indirect memory processes, like when we combine related information across time and context. For example, during history class, the child in the above example might learn that some painters used crushed up iron oxides to make red pigments. When asked what color is made when iron oxides are mixed with yellow paint, the child might mesh the related pieces of information from art and history class together to generate new knowledge: iron oxides mixed with yellow paint make orange. 

In the Bauer lab, we are using eye tracking technology to better understand the development of these types of indirect memory processes. Our study is funded by the National Institutes of Health, and focuses on 7-11 year-old children. So far, we’ve had about 100 families come in to participate! We ask families to visit our eye tracking lab for two appointments, about one week apart. During these appointments, children listen to facts and look at pictures on our eye tracker. Eye gaze patterns from the eye tracker will tell us important information about where children look and what they pay attention to when they learn new things. Our ultimate goal is to provide new understanding to how children learn from the world around them.  


Psychology can help us be better learners! I love thinking about and uncovering different ways to help learners of all levels and ages. The current research will provide a peephole into what types of indirect memory processes children use and when. This information has the potential to inform the development and design of educational activities, like classroom lectures, museum exhibits, educational television programs, and more! 


You can follow along with our work on my website, Twitter, or the Lab’s website

Welcome to the Monthly Insight, where we aim to give you a peek into the labs that conduct studies with the Child Study Center. What do these studies aim to answer? How do they come to be? Join us as we offer a unique view into the minds of our research teams, where you’ll find they may be asking the same questions you do!

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