An age advantage in the retention of new skills: developmental differences in the acquisition of a simple grapho-motor task

Adi-Japha, E. 1, 2 & Julius, M. 1

1 School of Education Bar-Ilan University, Israel
2 The Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Procedural memory plays a major role during early childhood, when many new skills are acquired. Previous studies of age-related differences in skill acquisition mainly focused on skill learning within a single practice session. Here we studied developmentally the training, memory consolidation and long-term retention of a simple grapho-motor ('invented letter') task (ILT) using a digitized tablet. A block of the ILT is composed of spaced identical 2-segment graphic symbols. The performance of 20 kindergarteners, 20 second-graders and 20 adults on the task indicated that adults outperformed children in both speed and accuracy. However, there were larger training gains among children than among adults. Furthermore, children and adults showed similar off-line enhancement in speed 24 hours post-training that was retained two weeks later. Decomposing performance into writing time and non-writing (space) time suggested that both components showed 24-hours enhancement in all 3 age-groups. Five-year-olds, however, lost the enhancement in space-time by retention testing. These data suggest improved retention with age. In spite of similar enhancement, amalgamation of task units stabilizes better with age.