Children and adults were tested on 3 place learning tasks. Children under the age of 7 were inferior to older subjects in solving the tasks by using spatial relational solutions, but subjects of all ages were equally proficient in solving the task by using simple stimulus-reward associations (cued solutions). Accurate performance on the cued versions suggests that neither the general response demands nor the large size of testing environments rendered the tasks differentially inappropriate for young children. Instead, the nature of the cognitive demands were responsible for different levels of performance across the age groups. Because, in animal studies, spatial relational solutions but not cued solutions of these tests require mature and undamaged medial temporal lobe structures, the results suggest that these systems are not fully developed in humans before approximately 7 years of age.
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