Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Improvement in source memory performance throughout childhood is thought to be mediated by the development of executive control. As postretrieval control processes may be better time-locked to the recognition response rather than the retrieval cue, the development of processes underlying source memory was investigated with both stimulus- and response-locked event-related potentials (ERPs). These were recorded in children, adolescents, and adults during a recognition memory exclusion task. Green- and red-outlined pictures were studied, but were tested in black outline. The test requirement was to endorse old items shown in one study color (“targets”) and to reject new items along with old items shown in the alternative study color (“nontargets”). Source memory improved with age. All age groups retrieved target and nontarget memories as reflected by reliable parietal episodic memory (EM) effects, a stimulus-locked ERP correlate of recollection. Response-locked ERPs to targets and nontargets diverged in all groups prior to the response, although this occurred at an increasingly earlier time point with age. We suggest these findings reflect the implementation of attentional control mechanisms to enhance target memories and facilitate response selection with the greatest and least success, respectively, in adults and children. In adults only, response-locked ERPs revealed an early-onsetting parietal negativity for nontargets, but not for targets. This was suggested to reflect adults' ability to consistently inhibit prepotent target responses for nontargets. The findings support the notion that the development of source memory relies on the maturation of control processes that serve to enhance accurate selection of task-relevant memories.