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Effects of episodic future thinking and self-projection on children’s prospective memory performance

Kretschmer-Trendowiez, A., Ellis, J. and Altgassen, M. (2016) Effects of episodic future thinking and self-projection on children’s prospective memory performance. PLoS ONE, 11 (6). e0158366. ISSN 1932-6203

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0158366


The present study is the first to investigate the benefits of episodic future thinking (EFT) at encoding on prospective memory (PM) in preschool (age: M = 66.34 months, SD = 3.28)and primary school children (age: M = 88.36 months, SD = 3.12). A second aim was to examine if self-projection influences the possible effects of EFT instructions. PM was assessed using a standard PM paradigm in children with a picture-naming task as the ongoing activity in which the PM task was embedded. Further, two first- and two second-order ToM tasks were administered as indicator of children’s self-projection abilities. Forty-one preschoolers and 39 school-aged children were recruited. Half of the participants in each age group were instructed to use EFT as a strategy to encode the PM task, while the others received standard PM instructions. Results revealed a significant age effect, with school-aged children significantly outperforming preschoolers and a significant effect of encoding condition with overall better performance when receiving EFT instructions compared to the standard encoding condition. Even though the interaction between age group and encoding condition was not significant, planned comparisons revealed first evidence that compared to the younger age group, older children’s PM benefited more from EFT instructions during intention encoding. Moreover, results showed that although self-projection had a significant impact on PM performance, it did not influence the effects of EFT instructions. Overall, results indicate that children can use EFT encoding strategies to improve their PM performance once EFT abilities are sufficiently developed. Further, they provide first evidence that in addition to executive functions, which have already been shown to influence the development of PM across childhood, self-projection seems to be another key mechanism underlying this development.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Language and Cognition
ID Code:66020
Publisher:Public Library of Science


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