• Do verbal reminders improve preschoolers’ prospective memory performance? It depends on age and individual differences

      Mahy, Caitlin; Mazachowsky, Tessa R.; Pagobo, Jacqueline R. (Elsevier, 2018)
      We examined the effect of verbal reminders on 4- to 6-year-olds’ prospective memory (PM). Reminder type interacted with age to affect PM performance. Children with better retrospective memory had better PM in the retrospective reminder condition. Children with better executive control had better PM in the executive reminder condition. Prospective memory (PM) involves both a retrospective memory component (i.e., remembering the content of a future intention) and a prospective component (i.e., detecting the appropriate cue and carrying out that intention). The current study was the first to test the effect of a single verbal reminder on 4- to 6-year-olds’ PM performance. Children were randomly assigned to: (1) a reminder about the content of an intention (retrospective memory reminder), (2) a reminder to pay attention (executive reminder), or (3) no reminder to test the predictions of the Executive Framework of PM Development (Mahy et al., 2014b) that posit a key role for executive function in PM development once retrospective memory reaches a sufficient level. Children also completed independent measures of retrospective memory and executive control. We predicted that an executive reminder should help children’s PM by increasing cue detection, whereas a retrospective memory reminder should not affect PM because by 4 children should be able to encode and store simple future intentions. Results showed that: (1) PM performance improved with age, (2) age interacted with the reminder condition, and (3) children with better executive functioning had better PM after receiving an executive reminder. These results suggest that age and individual differences play an important role in the impact reminders have on children’s PM performance.
    • The effect of psychological distance on young children's future predictions

      Mazachowsky, Tessa R.; Koktavy, Christine; Mahy, Caitlin (John Wiley and Sons, 2019)
      The current study examined the impact of psychological distance on children's performance on the pretzel task. In this task, children eat pretzels (inducing thirst) and then are asked to reason about future preferences (pretzels or water). Children typically perform poorly on this task, indicating a future preference for water over pretzels, potentially due to conflicting current and future states. Given past work showing that children's future reasoning is more accurate for another person, we asked 90 thirsty 3‐ to 7‐year‐olds to reason about their own and an experimenter's future preference. Results showed that thirsty children had more difficulty predicting their own future preference compared with the experimenter's. Thirstier children were more likely to predict a future preference for water. Thirst interacted with age when making a future choice for the experimenter. How psychological distance might boost episodic foresight and possible reasons for children's poor pretzel task performance are discussed. Does psychological distancing improve children's ability to make accurate future predictions when current and future states conflict? Using the Pretzel task, thirsty children were less accurate when predicting their own future preferences compared with the future preferences of another person. Psychological distancing may help children overcome their current state to reason more accurately about the future.