An unavoidable condition for learning is the child’s ability to remember what it is experiencing. Memory consists of the fact that various stimuli leave a transient or permanent trace in the psyche. What one remembers or does not remember can only be determined in an indirect way, i.e. by observing the effects of memory. Those are:
- Reproduction – the ability to react without repeating a stimulus in the same way as reacting to the stimulus itself. For example, the child first read a poem from a book aloud; if it remembered the poem, it would recite it even when it wasn’t looking at the book.
- Reconciliation – the ability to recognize an experience like it has been already experienced once, that is, that new stimuli differ from the old ones. For example, listening to a melody, the child recognizes a song it has recently heard at a performance, or finds that the melody is not the same as that song.
- Time-saving re-learning – the ability to re-learn some previously learned but forgotten material in less time and with less effort than the first time. For example, a student has learned a lesson before but has not repeated it, so he can no longer reproduce it. As his exam day approaches, he has to learn the subject again. It is very likely that this time he will master it faster and easier than during the first learning, because he still remembered something, even if he cannot reproduce it.
If a material is well remembered, it can be reproduced and, of course, recognized. A person can only recognize poorer memorized material, without the possibility of reproducing it, or with the ability of only partial reproduction. When he has memorized a matter very poorly, he will not even recognize it, at least not with certainty, but the next time he learns it, he will remember it more easily.
The ability to remember occurs during the first year of life. Already in three-month-old children, Ch. Bühler could cause the so-called delayed reactions: the child is shown a person, picture or toy for a moment; if, after its disappearance, it gets upset or only looks for the thing it saw for a while, it means that it remembered it. Such a delayed reaction of a child to a stimulus is an expression of its still quite rudimentary memory. It is also manifested in the fact that the infant notices a change, such as a defect in the object that we showed it a little while ago, so we took it away, took something away from it, and returned it to the child. The astonishment and questioning looks of the child are then proof that it has memorized the object in its original form.
According to Munn N. L.: Bilateral transfer of learning, the memory of a stimulus at the beginning of life is quite short-lived, but it soon lengthens. Thus a child of:
- 10–11 months remembers 1 minute
- 15-17 months remembers 8 minutes
- 19-20 months remembers 15 minutes
- 21-24 months remembers 17 minutes
The duration of memory of a single stimulus increases with the age of the child, but it also depends on other factors, primarily on the type and strength of the stimulus. Visual stimuli are regularly remembered longer and more fully than auditory ones. Intelligence also affects the ability to remember. The more intelligent a child is, the longer it will remember what it once experienced. There appear to be differences in memory abilities between the sexes.
With the age of the child, the reproduction of the memorized material becomes more accurate. It is difficult to say whether an older child really remembers better than a young one what it once notices, or more accurately notices and therefore reproduces better. All the more so the fact is that the child, being young, to a greater extent, processes with its imagination what it has experienced. It processes completely new material more strongly than the one it is already somewhat familiar with. In the reproduction of the experienced, the child easily falls under its influence. It is very suggestive in the reproduction, which means that it is easy to convince itself that something happened completely differently than what really happened. All this is the reason that the reproductions of a small child are completely unreliable. No credibility can be ascribed to its testimonies. It is only at school age that a child’s statements become more reliable, though still not entirely reliable.
For the same reason, in young and preschool children – up to the age of six – there is no lying if we consider a lie as a conscious distortion of the truth. The fact that a small child often does not tell the truth is not yet proof that it is lying. What the child says is always considered true, because in early childhood it still does not sufficiently distinguish the fruits of its imagination from what it has actually experienced.
An infant may remember little. But during its development, the child’s ability to remember a perception increases sharply. In later childhood, this ability shows a negative acceleration, which means that it continues to progress, but more slowly. Whether a child will remember an experience or not depends a lot on its current mood and interest in an event. If the child is in a good mood, collected, if it is attracted to what it is learning, it will quickly and easily remember that matter. On the contrary, lack of interest or depression, anger, and other negative affects will make it difficult for it to remember (memorize) the same material. Smart children usually remember better than less intelligent children. But it happens that even less intelligent children sometimes show a relatively good ability to remember.
The ability to remember becomes especially important when a child goes to school. It can master some teaching material in two ways: the so-called partial and global method of learning. The partial method is to divide the lesson into smaller parts so that each part is taught separately. According to the global method, an attempt is made to memorize the whole immediately, and only later are the details consolidated. Experimental examination of the success of both methods (Woodworth R.: Experimental psychology) showed that the global method of memorization is generally better than the partial one. The more intelligent a person the more successful he is when using this method. This is why gifted people spontaneously apply the global method of memorization, and those that are less intelligent prefer to use the partial method. Memorizing the whole instead of the individual parts has a greater advantage over the partial method of learning which is the more difficult content to learn. The simple matter is remembered equally well in both ways.
Memorization should be interrupted by frequent and short pauses. Then the effect of memorization is greater than if learning is interrupted only after very strong fatigue, even if it is for a longer time. The child will learn the lesson better if it repeats it aloud. In this way, it becomes aware of what it has remembered. Loud learning connects and arranges memorized content better, so it is easier and more completely reproduced later. The verbal shaping of thoughts into a sentence also contributes to this, so already during memorization, verbal schemes are formed according to which the content will be reproduced.
In the process of memorization, the phenomenon of transfer, i.e. the transfer of the ability to memorize one matter to another, is also observed. When a person, after learning one material, begins to memorize completely different matter, he will master the other faster if he had not learned anything before. This phenomenon should be used in the technique of learning school materials. If the child has to master a lot of material from several subjects, then it is not necessary to require it to study only one subject for one or more days, and to pass to the second only when it has completely mastered the first one. Its learning will be more successful if it studies two or more subjects each day. If, while learning one subject, it feels certain satiety, fatigue, or boredom, let the child begin with another one. The effect of learning also depends on experience and practice in learning. Those who are accustomed to constantly memorizing intellectual material will find it easier and more successful to accept new material than those who are not in the habit of memorizing such content more often.
In children, the process of memorization is more pronounced than in adults, the so-called reminiscence phenomenon (Ammons, H., Irion, A. L. A note on the Ballard reminiscence phenomenon): the child reproduces some memorized content more easily after a certain pause than immediately after memorization. Thus, Ballard subjects at the age of six, after one day reproduced memorized material 37% better than immediately after learning. After two days, this improvement was 57%, and after three days even 60%. After that, the amount of material that the children knew how to reproduce began to decline. The phenomenon of reminiscence is observed in 90% of preschool children. It occurs somewhat less frequently at school age, e.g. in 12 years, it is manifested by 75% of children, in adulthood only 30% of people (Ballard).
In the learning technique, the phenomenon of reminiscence can be used to warn children that there is not much benefit from learning shortly before the exam. Success will be better if the child has learnt the material at least two to three days before taking the exam. Forced repetition or even learning new material just before the exam makes no sense, because it does not contribute to knowledge at all.
Once memorized content is always more or less forgotten. Ebbinghaus H.: Concerning Memory, showed that the process of forgetting has a course of negative acceleration, i.e. that in the beginning, shortly after learning, a lot is forgotten, and later forgetting slows down more and more. The process of forgetting has an equal course in children and adults. However, there are also dual differences. Cyan and Gillette have shown through experiments that children who learn quickly forget more slowly than children who need more time to memorize some content.
Forgetting what you remember can be slowed down and even completely prevented by repeating the same material. Numerous consecutive repetitions of a matter have no purpose because it does not delay its forgetting. Immediately after the first memorization, this content should be repeated aloud only once or twice. The next repetition should be the next day, then again in two to three days, and then at ever-increasing intervals. With such a learning technique, the learned content can be kept fully capable of reproduction for a long time. If the material is initially repeated at relatively short intervals, it is learned again each time in a shorter time – much faster than the first time. On the contrary, if more time is allowed to elapse after the first learning, almost as much time will have to be spent on repetition as on the first learning. Therefore, often repeating some content is much more economical than repeating at longer intervals.