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An investigation of the effect of operational level and locus of causal context on the recall of main ideas Webster, Janet Barbara


This study was an investigation of the influence of operational level and locus of causal context on the recall of main ideas in a story. The subjects were 40 kindergarten children. The children were administered a series of Piagetian tasks - seriation, classification, and conservation - and assigned to the preoperational level or the concrete operational level. Subsequently, the children listened to a story. One version of the story had the locus of causal context, (a statement of the cause-effect relationship which precipitated the events), prior to the events, and the second version had the locus of causal context after the events. The children's recalls of the story were tape-recorded. Two ways of eliciting responses were used; stimulated recall, or very general prompting, and probed recall or direct questioning. The protocols were scored according to the number of idea units, either stimulated or probed, that were recalled. Two dependent variables, quantity and quality, were analyzed by a fixed effects, analysis of variance. Quantity referred to the number of main ideas recalled and quality to the proportion of main ideas recalled. The design was unbalanced, therefore, an a priori ordering was used. The organismic variable, operational level, was entered first, followed by locus of causal context. The results revealed a significant effect of operational level on quantity of recall of main ideas. A subsequent subanalysis revealed that most of the variability was accounted for by stimulated recall. The effect of the locus of causal context on number of main ideas recalled was not significant. Neither operational level nor locus of causal context had an effect on the differential recall of main ideas. It was concluded that future research on the memory of young children for stories should take operational level into account. The effectiveness of stimulated, as opposed to spontaneous recall, was also discussed.

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