Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Science
This dissertation had two over-arching goals. The first was to study the cognitive mechanisms underlying effective source monitoring by clarifying the role that developing executive function skills play in children’s increasing ability to monitor sources. The second goal was to examine whether a particular interview technique called “source-monitoring training” could help children to recall the sources of their memories more accurately. These two separate lines of research were furthered by the same methodology, and thus, these separate research questions were examined simultaneously within both of the experiments conducted for this dissertation.
In the first study, the difficulty of the source-monitoring decisions was manipulated by testing 4- to 8-year-old children’s memories of a lab-based event after a shorter delay (1-2 days) or a longer delay (8-10 days). Within these two conditions, I explored both the relationship of source monitoring to executive function, as well as the effectiveness of the source-monitoring training procedure. The results of this study showed that executive function was related to source monitoring, and mediation models demonstrated how children’s source monitoring improves with age due to developments in working memory, which improve event encoding and therefore, source monitoring. The effects of source-monitoring training were not as clear as expected; the only group to benefit from the training were older children in the shorter delay condition. Interestingly, neither the relationship between executive function and source monitoring nor the effects of source-monitoring training were affected by the difficulty of the task.
In the second study, 4- to 8-year-old children’s source monitoring was examined within a repeated-event paradigm. The inclusion of more than two sources (i.e., events) created a more realistic and generalizable task. Again, both the relationship between executive function and source monitoring and the effectiveness of source-monitoring training were examined within the same study. In this study, there was evidence that two broad components of executive function as measured through parent reports were related to source monitoring. The source-monitoring training did not improve source accuracy, but did impact the types of errors children made, such that older children who received the training were more likely to say, “I don’t know” instead of confusing the events.
Testing these relationships in a variety of conditions illustrates how cognitive and interview factors are related to source monitoring, demonstrating clear links between executive function and source monitoring, but mixed evidence for the effectiveness of source-monitoring training. Collectively, my doctoral program of research contributes a greater understanding of how source monitoring develops and whether source-monitoring training could be used in practice.
Earhart, Becky, "Young Children's Source Monitoring: Exploring the Contexts of Task Difficulty and Repeated Events" (2017). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1926.