• Developing an understanding of others’ emotional states: Relations among affective theory of mind and empathy measures in early childhood

      Gallant, Caitlyn M. M.; Lavis, Lydia; Mahy, Caitlin (Wiley, 2020)
      Theory of mind (ToM) consists of cognitive and affective components; however, few studies have evaluated the coherence of affective ToM measures and their associations with empathy. This research examined the relations among affective ToM tasks and assessments of empathy, measured directly and via parent reports in 4‐ to 6‐year‐olds. Children (N = 117) completed: an Appearance‐Reality Emotion Task, an adapted Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, an Affective Stories Task, and an empathy task. Parents reported on children’s ToM and empathy, and language was assessed using a Picture Vocabulary Test. Controlling for language, no relationships were found among affective ToM measures and children’s age was only related to the Affective Stories Task. Further, controlling for age, only parent‐reported empathy was associated with the Appearance‐Reality Emotion Task. Once vocabulary and age were controlled, measures of affective ToM are unrelated and different developmental patterns emerged across measures. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject Affective theory of mind is a distinct subcomponent of theory of mind that corresponds to an independent developmental mechanism. However, little research has been conducted on affective ToM, its developmental trajectory during the preschool years, its assessment, and its relationship with related constructs, such as empathy. What the present study adds Children’s performance on affective ToM tasks was unrelated once age and language abilities were accounted for. Thus, there is a need to examine affective ToM and its measurement more extensively to ensure we are effectively capturing this construct. This study was the first to establish a Preschool Reading the Mind in the Eyes Task that uses images of children and pictorial response options and an Affective Stories Task that captures age‐related changes in affective ToM beyond language skills.
    • “I’ll remember everything no matter what!”: The role of metacognitive abilities in the development of young children’s prospective memory

      Lavis, Lydia; Mahy, Caitlin (Elsevier, 2021)
      Young children made prospective and retrospective memory predictions and postdictions. Children’s prospective memory postdictions were influenced by task difficulty. Children’s metacognitive monitoring was related to prospective memory predictions. With age, children’s metamemory judgements became more accurate. Overall, 4- to 6-year-olds are optimistic in their memory predictions and postdictions. Prospective memory (PM), the ability to remember to carry out future intentions, is a critical skill for children’s daily activities. Despite this, little is known about young children’s awareness of their PM ability (metamemory), how metamemory is affected by PM task difficulty, and how metacognitive abilities might be related to metamemory. The current study examined the effect of task difficulty on children’s PM predictions, actual performance, and postdictions and relations among episodic memory metamemory, metacognitive control, and executive functioning. Children aged 4 to 6 years (N = 131) made PM predictions, completed an easy or difficult PM task, and then made PM postdictions. Children also made predictions and postdictions for their performance on an episodic recall task and then completed an independent measure of metacognitive control and two measures of executive function (working memory and inhibition). Results showed that (a) children’s PM increased with age and was worse in the difficult PM task condition, (b) PM predictions and postdictions did not increase with age and only PM postdictions were affected by PM task difficulty; (c) children’s PM and episodic recall predictions and postdictions were more accurate with age, (d) children’s PM postdictions best predicted PM performance, whereas predictions best predicted episodic recall task performance, and (e) children with better metacognitive control had better PM and more accurate PM predictions. These results are discussed in terms of young children’s optimism surrounding their memory performance and the emergence of early metacognitive abilities.