• The development of prospective memory in young schoolchildren: The impact of ongoing task absorption, cue salience, and cue centrality

      Kliegel, Matthias; Mahy, Caitlin E.V.; Voigt, Babett; Henry, Julie D.; Rendell, Peter G.; Aberle, Ingo (Elsevier, 2013)
      •9- and 10-year-olds outperformed 6- to 7-year-olds in event-based prospective memory. •Varying cue centrality, age effects only emerged with cues outside the center of attention. •Findings suggest developing executive control as cognitive mechanism. •Alternative conceptual explications are deeper encoding or changes in meta-memory. This study presents evidence that 9- and 10-year-old children outperform 6- and 7-year-old children on a measure of event-based prospective memory and that retrieval-based factors systematically influence performance and age differences. All experiments revealed significant age effects in prospective memory even after controlling for ongoing task performance. In addition, the provision of a less absorbing ongoing task (Experiment 1), higher cue salience (Experiment 2), and cues appearing in the center of attention (Experiment 3) were each associated with better performance. Of particular developmental importance was an age by cue centrality (in or outside of the center of attention) interaction that emerged in Experiment 3. Thus, age effects were restricted to prospective memory cues appearing outside of the center of attention, suggesting that the development of prospective memory across early school years may be modulated by whether a cue requires overt monitoring beyond the immediate attentional context. Because whether a cue is in or outside of the center of attention might determine the amount of executive control needed in a prospective memory task, findings suggest that developing executive control resources may drive prospective memory development across primary school age.
    • Emerging themes in the development of prospective memory during childhood

      Mahy, Caitlin; Kliegel, Matthias; Marcovitch, Stuart (Elsevier, 2014)
      Six years ago, Kvavilashvili, Kyle, and Messer (2008) called for more research in the area of chil dren’s prospective memory (PM), defined as the ability to remember to carry out delayed intentions (Einstein & McDaniel, 1990). At that time, the literature on PM in children was scant, although a few well-developed paradigms were available to measure PM in preschool-age children (Kvavilashvili, Messer, & Ebdon, 2001) and older children during middle childhood (Kerns, 2000). Although there is still much work to be done, the last few years have seen a steep rise in the number of studies on the topic of PM during childhood examining children as young as 2 years using a wide variety of time- and event-based PM paradigms. This recent increase in research activity in children’s PM was reflected in the high number of initial submissions for this special issue (20 manuscripts). The current special issue on the development of PM during childhood offers an overview of this burgeoning area of research, studying children from toddlerhood to adolescence, who are typically and atypically developing, using a wide variety of methods, including naturalistic tasks, experimental tasks, and parent report measures. In what follows, we first discuss the four sections of this special issue: PM research during early childhood, PM and episodic future thinking, PM in clinical populations, and PM during adolescence. We then highlight some emerging themes in this collection of articles that cut across these sections and highlight the contribution such topics will make to the field of PM.
    • The impact of age, ongoing task difficulty, and cue salience on preschoolers’ prospective memory performance: The role of executive function

      Mahy, Caitlin; Moses, Louis; Kliegel, Matthias (Elsevier, 2014)
      5-year-old children had better prospective memory than 4-year-olds.•Children had better prospective memory performance for salient compared to non-salient cues.•Prospective memory performance was not affected by ongoing task difficulty.•Prospective memory suffered most when cues were non-salient and the ongoing task was difficult.•Inhibition fully mediated the relation between age and prospective memory performance. The current study examined the impact of age, ongoing task (OT) difficulty, and cue salience on 4- and 5-year-old children’s prospective memory (PM) and also explored the relation between individual differences in executive function (working memory, inhibition, and shifting) and PM. OT difficulty and cue salience are predicted to affect the detection of PM cues based on the multiprocess framework, yet neither has been thoroughly investigated in young children. OT difficulty was manipulated by requiring children to sort cards according to the size of pictured items (easy) or by opposite size (difficult), and cue salience was manipulated by placing a red border around half of the target cues (salient) and no border around the other cues (non-salient). The 5-year-olds outperformed the 4-year-olds on the PM task, and salient PM cues resulted in better PM cues compared with non-salient cues. There was no main effect of OT difficulty, and the interaction between cue salience and OT difficulty was not significant. However, a planned comparison revealed that the combination of non-salient cues and a difficult OT resulted in significantly worse PM performance than that in all of the other conditions. Inhibition accounted for significant variance in PM performance for non-salient cues and for marginally significant variance for salient cues. Furthermore, individual differences in inhibition fully mediated the effect of age on PM performance. Results are discussed in the context of the multiprocess framework and with reference to preschoolers’ difficulty with the executive demands of dividing attention between the OT and PM task.
    • The roles of perspective and language in children’s ability to delay gratification

      Mahy, Caitlin; Moses, Louis; O'Brien, Bronwyn; Castro, Alex W.; Kopp, Leia; Atance, Christina (Elsevier, 2020)
      We manipulated psychological distance in a delay of gratification paradigm. Younger children showed an other-over-self advantage but older children did not. Using “want” vs. “should” did not impact children’s delay of gratification. Increasing psychological distance is an established method for improving children’s performance in a number of self-regulation tasks. For example, using a delay of gratification (DoG) task, Prencipe and Zelazo (Psychological Science, 2005, Vol. 16, pp. 501–505) showed that 3-year-olds delay more for “other” than they do for “self,” whereas 4-year-olds make similar choices for self and other. However, to our knowledge, no work has manipulated language to increase psychological distance in children. In two experiments, we sought to manipulate psychological distance by replicating Prencipe and Zelazo’s age-related findings and extending them to older children (Experiment 1) and also sought to manipulate psychological distance using the auxiliary verbs “want” and “should” to prime more impulsive preference-based decisions or more normative optimal decisions (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, 96 3- to 7-year-olds showed age-related improvements and interactive effects between age and perspective on DoG performance. In Experiment 2, 132 3- to 7-year-olds showed age-related improvements and a marginal interaction between age and perspective on DoG performance, but no effect of auxiliary verbs was detected. Results are discussed in terms of differing developmental trajectories of DoG for self and other due to psychological distancing, and how taking another’s perspective may boost DoG in younger children but not older children.