• The development of prospective memory in children: An executive framework

      Mahy, Caitlin; Moses, Louis; Kliegel, Matthias (Elsevier, 2014)
      Existing literature on children's prospective memory has been reviewed. An executive framework for studies on prospective memory development has been suggested. This study proposes a developmental model of prospective memory. Prospective memory (PM), the ability to remember to carry out one's intentions in the future, is critical for children's daily functioning and their ability to become independent from caregivers. This review assesses the current state of research on children's prospective memory. Using an executive functioning framework the literature can be organized into studies examining four factors that influence PM. We discuss studies that have manipulated the nature of the intention, the content or length of the retention interval, the nature of the ongoing task, and the nature of the PM cue. Further, we propose a model that attempts to account for the development of PM across childhood based on advances in executive control. Finally, we suggest promising future directions for research.
    • 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.
    • How and where: Theory-of-mind in the brain

      Mahy, Caitlin; Moses, Louis J.; Pfeifer, Jennifer H. (Elsevier, 2014)
      Neuroscience has the potential to address accounts of theory-of-mind acquisition. Review of the research on the neural basis of theory-of-mind in adults and children. Future research directions include microgenetic and training fMRI studies. Theory of mind (ToM) is a core topic in both social neuroscience and developmental psychology, yet theory and data from each field have only minimally constrained thinking in the other. The two fields might be fruitfully integrated, however, if social neuroscientists sought evidence directly relevant to current accounts of ToM development: modularity, simulation, executive, and theory theory accounts. Here we extend the distinct predictions made by each theory to the neural level, describe neuroimaging evidence that in principle would be relevant to testing each account, and discuss such evidence where it exists. We propose that it would be mutually beneficial for both fields if ToM neuroimaging studies focused more on integrating developmental accounts of ToM acquisition with neuroimaging approaches, and suggest ways this might be achieved.
    • “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.
    • Testing the validity of a continuous false belief task in 3- to 7-year-old children

      Mahy, Caitlin; Bernstein, Daniel M.; Gerrard, Lindsey D.; Atance, Christina M. (Elsevier, 2017)
      A continuous measure of false belief showed development in 3–7 year old children. False belief bias was related to Change of Location task performance. False belief bias was unrelated to measures of inhibition. The continuous measure of false belief shows convergent and discriminant validity. In two studies, we examined young children’s performance on the paper-and-pencil version of the Sandbox task, a continuous measure of false belief, and its relations with other false belief and inhibition tasks. In Study 1, 96 children aged 3 to 7years completed three false belief tasks (Sandbox, Unexpected Contents, and Appearance/Reality) and two inhibition tasks (Head–Shoulders–Knees–Toes and Grass/Snow). Results revealed that false belief bias—a measure of egocentrism—on the Sandbox task correlated with age but not with the Unexpected Contents or Appearance/Reality task or with measures of inhibition after controlling for age. In Study 2, 90 3- to 7-year-olds completed five false belief tasks (Sandbox, Unexpected Contents, Appearance/Reality, Change of Location, and a second-order false belief task), two inhibition tasks (Simon Says and Grass/Snow), and a receptive vocabulary task (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test). Results showed that false belief bias on the Sandbox task correlated negatively with age and with the Change of Location task but not with the other false belief or inhibition tasks after controlling for age and receptive vocabulary. The Sandbox task shows promise as an age-sensitive measure of false belief performance during early childhood and shows convergent and discriminant validity.
    • These pretzels are going to make me thirsty tomorrow: Differential development of hot and cool episodic foresight in early childhood?

      Mahy, Caitlin; Grass, Julia; Wagner, Sarah; Kliegel, Matthias (Wiley, 2014)
      The current study examined 3‐ and 7‐year‐olds' performance on two types of episodic foresight tasks: A task that required ‘cool’ reasoning processes about the use of objects in future situations and a task that required ‘hot’ processes to inhibit a salient current physiological state in order to reason accurately about a future state. Results revealed that 7‐year‐olds outperformed 3‐year‐olds on the episodic foresight task that involved cool processes, but did not show age differences in performance on the task that involved hot processes. In fact, both 3‐ and 7‐year‐olds performed equally poorly on the task that required predicting a future physiological state that was in conflict with their current state. Further, performance on the two tasks was unrelated. We discuss the results in terms of differing developmental trajectories for episodic foresight tasks that differentially rely on hot and cool processes and the universal difficulties humans have with predicting later outcomes that conflict with current motivational states.
    • Thinking about the future: Comparing children’s forced-choice versus “generative” responses in the “spoon test”

      Atance, Christina M.; Celebi, Seyda Nur; Mitchinson, Sarah; Mahy, Caitlin (Elsevier, 2019)
      Episodic future thinking has been assessed in children using the “spoon test”. In this test, children select an item that will be useful in the future. We adapted this test so that preschoolers had to verbally generate the item. For all age groups generating the correct item was more difficult than selecting it. Performance in the “generate” condition was related to category fluency. One of the most popular methods to assess children’s foresight is to present children with a problem (e.g., locked box with no key) in one room and then later, in another room, give them the opportunity to select the item (e.g., key) that will solve it. Whether or not children choose the correct item to bring back to the first room is the dependent measure of interest in this “spoon test.” Although children as young as 3 or 4 years typically succeed on this test, whether they would pass a more stringent version in which they must verbally generate (vs. select) the correct item in the absence of any cues is unknown. This is an important point given that humans must often make decisions about the future without being explicitly “prompted” by the future-oriented option. In Experiment 1, using an adapted version of the spoon test, we show that as the “generative” requirements of the task increase, 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds’ (N = 99) performance significantly decreases. We replicate this effect in Experiment 2 (N = 48 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds) and also provide preliminary evidence that the capacity to verbally generate the correct item in a spoon test may draw more heavily on children’s category fluency skills than does their capacity to select this item among a set of distracters. Our findings underscore the importance of examining more generative forms of future thought in young children.
    • Young Children Have Difficulty Predicting Future Preferences in the Presence of a Conflicting Physiological State: Conflicting State EFT

      Mahy, Caitlin (Wiley and Sons, 2016)
      This study examined children's predictions about their future preferences when they were in two different physiological states (thirsty and not thirsty). Ninety 3- to 7-year-olds were asked to predict what they would prefer tomorrow: pretzels to eat or water to drink after having consumed pretzels, and again after having had the opportunity to quench their thirst with water. Results showed that although children initially preferred pretzels to water at baseline, they more often indicated that they would prefer water the next day after they had consumed pretzels. After consuming water, however, the same children indicated they would prefer pretzels the next day. Children's verbal justifications for their choices rarely made reference to their current or future states, but rather justifications were more likely to make reference to their general preferences when they were no longer thirsty compared to when they were thirsty. Results suggest that current physiological states have a powerful influence on future preferences. The findings are discussed in the context of the development of episodic foresight, the Bischof-Kohler hypothesis, and the important and often overlooked role that children's current states play in future decision making.