Memories tend to fade with time for adults, but some small children can remember a piece of information better days later than they can on the day they first learned it.
While playing a video game that asked them to remember associations between objects, children between ages four and five who re-played the game after a two-day delay scored more than 20 percent higher than kids who re-played it later the same day.
"An implication is that kids can be smarter than we necessarily thought they could be," said co-author of the study Kevin Darby from The Ohio State University in the US.
"They can make complex associations, they just need more time to do it," Darby noted.
The study involving 82 preschool kids documented two different but related cognitive phenomena simultaneously: So-called "extreme forgetting" -- when kids learn two similar things in rapid succession, and the second thing causes them to forget the first -- and delayed remembering -- when they can recall the previously forgotten information days later.
The findings "give us a window into understanding memory and, in particular, the issue of encoding new information into memory," lead study author Vladimir Sloutsky, professor of psychology at Ohio State, said.
"First, we showed that if children are given pieces of similar information in close proximity, the different pieces interfere with each other, and there is almost complete elimination of memory," Sloutsky said.
"Second, we showed that introducing delays eliminates this interference," Sloutsky noted.
"It seems surprising that children can almost completely forget what they just learned, but then their memories can actually improve with time," Sloutsky pointed out.
The study will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science