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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Memory and metamemory in hyperactive children MacDonald, Mary Ann


Memory and metamemory were examined in 30 hyperactive and 30 nonhyperactive children matched on age, grade, and IQ (as measured by the Vocabulary and the Block Design subtests of the WISC-R), within the context of a broad range of tasks. The five tasks investigated in this study were: (a) a prospective memory task, (b) a feeling-of-knowing task, a visual retention task, (c) a word generation task, (d) and (e) an object span and recall task. Previous research has demonstrated considerable variability in the performance of hyperactive children on memory tasks. They have been shown to perform as well as normal children on tasks of cued recall, paired associates for meaningful words, and on tests of recognition memory. They are distinguished from normal children by their poor performance on tasks of uncued recall, paired associates learning for semantically unrelated words, and in addition, often display performance decrements when task demands increase. The results of this study suggest that hyperactive children are less efficient in metamemory knowledge and skills than normal children. These findings are consistent with the proposal that the difficulties hyperactive children demonstrate on memory tasks may result from a deficiency in their ability to efficiently engage in metamemory processes. The hyperactive children in this study generally had more difficulty than the control children with recall on all the tasks. These included tests of both verbal and nonverbal memory, short and long-term memory, and prospective remembering. Further, they did not derive a memorial benefit, as the control subjects did, when generating their own recall items, or when recalling visual stimuli that could be more easily verbally encoded than others. The hyperactive subjects demonstrated their recall abilities by performing as well as the normal subjects on the recall of read words in the word generation task, and on the recall of the low and medium level of labelability items in the visual retention task. Also, the recall performance of the hyperactive subjects differed significantly between a no-strategy and a provided strategy condition on the prospective memory task. Moreover, there were no group differences on the recognition memory test of the feeling-of-knowing task. The results of this study are consistent with the previous investigations of memory performance in hyperactive children. The present findings further extend the past research by demonstrating selective memory deficits in the hyperactive subjects that are consistent with deficits in metamemory abilities. The proposition that metamemory skills are implicated in the difficulties that the hyperactive children demonstrated in this study is further supported by the difficulty they experienced in describing how they remembered the task items. The hyperactive subjects had more difficulty than the control subjects when attempting to describe a strategy that they used to aid recall. The strategies they described, relative to the control subjects, tended to be vague and poorly defined. These findings suggest that there may be both qualitative and quantitative differences in the way in which hyperactive and normal children use strategies. In summary, the findings of this study suggest that hyperactive children, relative to normal children, seem to be deficient in both their metamemory knowledge and the ability to monitor and control their memory performance. Questions addressing whether these children cannot or do not employ these skills were introduced. The clinical implications of the findings were considered and recommendations were made for future research.

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