Memory Development Between Two and Twenty, 2nd ed. Wolfgang Schneider and Michael Pressley. 412 pp. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997. $99.95.
The first edition of this book by two of the most productive and influential researchers in memory development has been a standard reference since its 1989 publication. Because the field has been characterized by intense activity during the intervening years, the second edition is timely. Basic research into the change in children's abilities to process information has continued over the past decade. Applied research, however, has been the focus of far-reaching attention and emotional debate. Urgent questions concerning young children's testimony in legal proceedings have charged memory-development study, energizing work in the area and challenging academic psychology to assist in addressing real-world dilemmas. Developments in the field thus make this second edition of broad interest to psychologists and others concerned with children's memory.
This book provides a sophisticated yet accessible overview of memory development. The research on the development of memory system components—structural capacity, encoding and retrieval strategies, knowledge, and metamemory (understanding the workings of one's own memory system)—is presented in individual chapters. There is an emphasis throughout on the interaction and coordination among these components, culminating in chapters on good information processing and good strategy use. This discussion makes the book particularly valuable to individuals with serious interests in classroom applications of the basic research on memory development. The presentation is consistently well organized and enhanced by well-chosen examples from the literature as well as from everyday experience. Schneider and Pressley manage to convey a coherent overview of the field while remaining close to the basic phenomena of children's memory. The next generation of researchers will benefit from the text's historical perspective and its integration of early work in verbal learning, recent advances in understanding adult memory and methodological issues. I would not want to teach—or take—a graduate course in cognitive development or educational psychology without this book.
Those who wish specifically to understanding children's reports of personally experienced events will find an excellent summary of the recent work in autobiographical memory. However, the position of this chapter in the contents, as a separate new addition to the original outline, reflects the lack of integration between autobiographical memory and the retention of factual information. This overview provides essentially the only direct discussion of children's reports of specific events. Hence, those seeking to understand the implications of basic research in memory development for interpreting and managing children's testimony will be disappointed overall. In part, this limitation reflects the extent to which work in children's eyewitness memory has been problem-driven. In contrast, Schneider and Pressley strongly advocate programmatic research and argue that memory development should be understood from findings based on systematic investigations. Nonetheless, much of the established basic literature as presented in this book has clear relevance for interpreting and facilitating children's event reports. Many readers will wish for the authors' assistance in achieving the integration of the more basic and applied literatures.
Such a synthesis, of course, is necessary for understanding memory development, not just children's memory for personal experiences. Moreover, such work is of critical importance in combining memory-development study with that of child development more broadly defined. Although serious students of memory development will value this second edition of Memory Development Between Two and Twenty, many will hope that the promised third edition directs more attention to applied-research findings.—Lynne Baker-Ward, Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University