What Goes With What and Where - The Development of Relational Learning: Dr Jenny Richmond

What is this research about?

Our ability to remember events that we experience hinges on the way that we link together details about what happened, who was there, where it happened, when it happened and how the event played out.

The hippocampus binds these disparate details into a representation that is held together and linked to other event memories that share features. These memory networks are what enable us to use our memories flexibly.

Research in our lab uses eye-tracking to study how infants and young children begin to form these relational representations and then start to use them to make inferences from their experience.

The advantage of using eye-tracking is that we can use similar tasks from 6 months to 6 years, tracking the development of this essential component of human memory. Our work has shown that 6-month-old infants can form relational representations but only retrieve them after short delays (Richmond & Power, 2014; Chong, Richmond, Wong, Qiu, & Rifkin-Graboi, 2015) and by 9 months infants encode what goes where (Richmond Burn Zhao, 2015).

Our work with pre-schoolers has shown that while 3 ½ year olds can learn relations between arbitrarily paired objects and locations, it is not until 4 ½ that children can use that learning flexibly to make inferences from their experience (Richmond & Pan, 2013). Our current work is beginning to look at how pairing objects with expressions of emotion impacts infant learning and how performance on eye-tracking and behavioural measures of relational memory are related in pre-schoolers. 

Other researchers working on this project:

Publications relating to this research:

Richmond, J., Zhao, J., & Weidemann, G. (in press). I like it by mere association: Conditioning preferences in infants. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Richmond, J., *Burns, M., *Zhao, J. (2015). What goes where? Eye tracking reveals spatial relational memory during infancy. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 130, 79-91.

Chong, H., Richmond, J. Wong, J., Qiu, A., Rifkin-Graboi, A. (2015). Looking behavior at test and relational memory in 6-month-old infants. Infancy, 20, 18-41.

Richmond, J., & *Power, J. (2014). Age-related differences in memory expression during infancy: Using eye-tracking to measure relational memory in 6- and 12-month olds. Developmental Psychobiology, 56, 1341-1351.

Richmond, J., & *Pan, R. (2013). Thinking about the future early in life: The role of relational memory development. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 114, 510-521.

Richmond, J., & Nelson, C.A. (2009). Relational memory during infancy: Evidence from eye tracking. Developmental Science, 12. 549-556.

Grants awarded:

2015 University of New South Wales School of Psychology Small Grant $8000 “I like that one best: The role of gaze in infant’s preference learning”.

2010-2012 Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant. $140,000 “Uncovering the mechanisms of early memory development: A new approach using eye tracking”.


Early Learning Project