• 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.
    • 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.