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Durham e-Theses
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A sociocultural approach to memory development: private speech and culture as determinants of early remembering

Al-Namlah, Abdulrahman S. (2002) A sociocultural approach to memory development: private speech and culture as determinants of early remembering. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The main purpose of the studies reported in this thesis was to investigate young children’s memory development within a Vygotskian (1934/1986) theoretical framework in an attempt to understand the mechanisms via which socio-cultural factors impact on children's remembering. The central hypothesis of the studies undertaken for this thesis was that children's use of language to regulate their own behaviour involved the mechanism via which individual differences in social and cultural background impact on children's memory development. In particular, children's use of private speech as a means of using language strategically to regulate their behaviour was examined in its relations to their remembering performance on the assumption that effects of social and cultural factors on memory development will be reflected through the extent to which children in both the British and the Saudi societies tended to use this verbal behaviour. The phenomenon of private speech represents the developmental and functional relationship between social processes and the child's mental functioning in the sense that this verbal behaviour is assumed to underlie the developmental course of the child's intemalisation of social processes. Therefore, establishing links between private speech and children's memory development signifies the notion concerning the inseparability of the individual and the act of remembering from their social and cultural contexts (Mistry, 1997).Chapter 1 is dedicated to discuss the development of working memory processes and their determinants aiming to highlight the fact that several authors have argued for the importance of investigating effects of children's social and cultural contexts on their remembering behaviour in order to identify those mechanisms that are assumed to underlie developmental changes in children's memory performance. Chapter 2 reviews theories on the cultural processes influencing memory, and previous research on cross-cultural differences in memory development. Chapter 2 also outlines the theoretical framework of the studies reported in this thesis. Study 1 reported in Chapter 3 examined the incidence and function of private speech as well as its developmental and social aspects within and between the two cultural groups of children: the British and the Saudi Arabian. The findings indicated that private speech is a universal stage in children's cognitive development and its developmental and functional aspects are considered to be a function of cultural variations in children's socialisation between the two cultures. Study 2 reported in Chapter 4 was designed to address the possibility that private speech as a self-regulatory verbal behaviour may explain children's individual differences within and across the two cultures in terms of use of the subvocal rehearsal within the model of working memory. This issue was examined by linking private speech to the phenomenon of phonological similarity effect that is assumed to signify children's tendency to employ the subvocal rehearsal (Gathercole & Baddeley, 1993). The findings showed that in both cultures, children who relied more on private speech to regulate their behaviour were more susceptible to the phonological similarity effect and their overall remembering performance was better than children who were less dependent on private speech. These results suggest that the regulating capacity inherent in private speech enhances strategic remembering in verbal working memory. The relationship between private speech and remembering was further examined in Study 3 reported in Chapter 5. Study 3 aimed to investigate how children's individual differences within and across the two cultures in terms of using private speech would relate to their autobiographical narratives. Based on the dominant cultural norms, early socialisation of autobiographical memory involves teaching children the appropriate cultural way of reporting past personal memories in an organised narrative style when participating in memory talks with others, particularly parents. In this regard, children use language to achieve two main goals, the first is to share memories with others and the second is to use language internally in order to develop a self-reminding capacity (Nelson, 1993c; Nelson & Fivush, 2000). By representing the genetic link between social processes and mental processes, private speech may underlie the developmental shift from using language externally as in parent-child memory conversations towards applying it internally in order to enhance the development of self-reminding talk. Therefore, within Study 3, it was hypothesised that children's use of self-regulatory private speech might be the mechanism via which social interactions and cultural practices affect children's autobiographical memory. The findings of Study 3 provided support for a strategic use of language via private speech in the development of children's personal memories. In both cultures, children who were dependent more on private speech were better able in reporting more autobiographical narrative in a more organised way than children who relied less on this verbal behaviour. There was also a cultural effect on children's personal memories in the sense that the British than the Saudi children have reported more autobiographical memories in a more detailed way. The final chapter summarises the main findings of the three studies and indicates issues arising from these findings.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2002
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 Aug 2012 11:33

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