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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Influence of Interactive Media on Episodic Memory Development During Middle Childhood

  • Author(s): Ricker, Ashley Ann
  • Advisor(s): Richert, Rebekah A
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License

This dissertation evaluates the influence of exposure to interactive media and tablet-based gaming on metacognition and episodic memory development during middle childhood. Despite a growing body of literature demonstrating the impacts of exposure to interactive media on various aspects of cognitive development, the effects on episodic memory have been largely unexplored. This dissertation addresses this dearth by presenting a conceptual model that describes metacognition as mediating the effects of interactive media on episodic memory in middle childhood. This model allows for the production of multiple testable hypotheses and guides the four overarching research questions addressed in the dissertation. These research questions were investigated using multiple data sets, an experimental intervention, and a variety of statistical approaches across three manuscripts presented as chapters.

Findings suggest that the effects of interactive media are not uniform, but rather vary as a function of the child’s age. That is, children’s episodic memory encoding skills are more susceptible to the influence of interactive gaming in middle childhood rather than early childhood, once metacognitive skills have come online. The impacts of interactive media also vary based on features of interactive devices or games and the environments they provide for children. Games high in adaptivity, control, and feedback provided children with more opportunities for metacognitive experiences. After a two-week intervention, manipulating the types of gaming environments children experience in the home, small but significant improvements in episodic memory encoding was observed.

This dissertation makes both theoretical and applied contributions to the field of cognitive development. Importantly, these findings provide insight into the mechanisms through which episodic memory is influenced by exposure to different types of interactive media. Additionally, they highlight the importance of considering specific features of interactive games or devices (e.g., adaptivity, control, and feedback) and the types of environments they provide for children in the design of future interactive media targeted at promoting learning environments. Finally, this dissertation provides readily translatable evidence-based research to a wide audience of consumers and policy makers regarding how exposure to different types of interactive media might enhance or inhibit children’s metacognition and episodic memory development.

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