• “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.