• 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 effect of episodic future simulation and motivation on young children’s induced-state episodic foresight

      Mahy, Caitlin; Masson, Chelsey; Krause, Amanda M.; Mazachowsky, Tessa (Elsevier, 2020)
      Examined the impact of episodic simulation and motivation on children’s episodic foresight. Thirst was induced and children were asked to make future choices. 3- to 5-year-olds completed the pretzel task under 4 different experimental conditions. Children’s future predictions were most accurate in the motivation condition. A novel and motivating food item, a cupcake, helped children overcome their current state of thirst. Future simulation and motivation are two strategies that might help children improve their induced-state episodic foresight. In Study 1, 3- to 5-year-old children (N = 96) consumed pretzels (to induce thirst) and were asked what they would prefer the next day, pretzels or water. Children were randomly assigned to an experimental condition: (1) a standard thirsty condition, (2) an episodic simulation condition where they imagined being hungry the next day, (3) a motivation condition where children chose between a cupcake and water, or (4) a control condition (thirst was not induced). Future preferences did not differ by age and children were less likely to choose water (vs. a cupcake) in the motivation condition compared to the standard thirsty condition. Study 2 found that 3- to 5-year-old children (N = 22) were also less likely to choose water for right now versus a cupcake when thirst was induced.
    • 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.
    • Executive functioning and prospective memory in young children

      Mahy, Caitlin E.V.; Moses, Louis J. (Elsevier, 2011)
      The current study examined the role of executive functioning (EF) in children's prospective memory (PM) by assessing the effect of delay and number of intentions to-be-remembered on PM, as well as relations between PM and EF. Ninety-six 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds completed a PM task and two executive function tasks. The PM task required children to interrupt an ongoing card game to perform one action (single intention) or two actions (dual intention) with target cards after a short delay (1 min) or a long delay (5 min). There was no main effect of number of intentions or delay on the PM task. However, performance improved with age, and age and delay interacted such that 4-year-olds’ performance remained the same after a long delay whereas 5-year-olds’ performance improved after a long delay. We suggest that the age by delay interaction is a product of age differences in cognitive monitoring. Working memory but not inhibitory control predicted PM with age controlled. We argue that an executive function framework permits an integrative understanding of many processes involved in young children's prospective memory.
    • How executive functions are associated with event-based and time based prospective memory during childhood

      Zuber, Sascha; Mahy, Caitlin; Kliegel, Matthias (Elsevier, 2018)
      Age does not explain prospective memory performance above and beyond executive resources. Updating represents a general resource deployed by different PM tasks. Inhibition is particularly required to perform focal and non-focal event-based tasks. Shifting is specifically deployed by non-focal event-based time-based PM tasks. Time-monitoring is essential to succeed at time-based prospective memory tasks. A key developmental task of childhood is to gain autonomy and independence from parents and caregivers. Critical to this individualization process is the development of prospective memory (PM), the capacity to remember to carry out future intentions. In recent studies, children's PM performance has been associated with executive functions (EF). A closer inspection of the literature, however, suggests a differential impact of the three EF (updating, inhibition, and shifting) across different PM task types. The current study examined EF and PM capacities of 212 6- to 11-year-old children, examining for the first time both focal and non-focal event-based PM tasks as well as a time-based PM task in a single sample. Results show that age-differences did not persist above and beyond age differences in children's executive resources. Specifically, updating predicted children's performance on all PM tasks, inhibition predicted performance on both event-based PM tasks, whereas shifting was specifically deployed by the non-focal event-based task. Supplementary analyses of the time-based PM task illustrate how children monitor the progression of time and how preparatory processes support PM task performance. In sum, the current study presents the first comprehensive look at the specific role of age and three core EF in school-aged children's PM performance.
    • “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.
    • Roots, Rights and Risk: Canada, Childhood and the COVID-19 Global Pandemic

      Ciotti, Sarah; Moore, Shannon A.; Connolly, Maureen; Newmeyer, Trent (2021)
      The COVID-19 global pandemic highlights pre-existing inequities as well as the challenge of ensuring the protection of children’s human rights in countries like Canada that have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. SARS-CoV-2, referred to as the 2019 novel Coronavirus disease or COVID-19, presents a significant threat to public health. Although children are considered to be low risk of contracting, spreading, and serious complications of the disease, are considerably impacted by COVID-19 government-sanctioned distancing measures. COVID-19 is a persistent public health threat, thus, the long-term consequences are largely unknown. This qualitative research study, a content analysis of online Canadian media reports of COVID-19 and children, engaged transdisciplinary social justice methodology, social constructions of childhood at the intersection of race, socio-economic status, gender, and disability. The findings suggest COVID-19 reinforces the impact of social exclusion and economic disparity on equity-seeking young people and families in Canada.
    • 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.
    • 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.