Children can easily link a novel word to a novel, unnamed object—something referred to as fast mapping. Despite the ease and speed with which children do this, their memories for novel fast-mapped words can be poor unless they receive memory supports such as further exposure to the words or sleep. Axelsson, Swinton, Winiger, and Horst (2018) found that 2.5-year-old children who napped after fast mapping had better retention of novel words than children who did not nap. Retention declined for those who did not nap. The children received no memory supports and determined the word-object mappings independently. Previous studies report enhanced memories after sleeping in children and adults, but the napping children’s retention in the Axelsson et al. study remained steady across time. We report a follow-up investigation where memory supports are provided after fast mapping to test whether memories would be enhanced following napping. Children’s retention of novel words improved and remained greater than chance; however, there was no nap effect with no significant difference between the children who napped and those who did not. These findings suggest that when memory supports are provided, retention improves, and the word–object mappings remain stable over time. When memory traces are weak and labile, such as after fast mapping, without further memory supports, sleeping soon after helps stabilise and prevent decay of word–object mappings.

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Journal: Brain Sciences. 2021 Oct;11(10):1366

Keywords: children, declarative memory, memory strength, napping, Sleep, sleep-related memory, word learning,

Applications: Sleep,

CamNtech Reference: M21062

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