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31-08-2017 | Original Article | Uitgave 3/2019

Psychological Research 3/2019

Episodic future thinking improves children’s prospective memory performance in a complex task setting with real life task demands

Psychological Research > Uitgave 3/2019
A. Kretschmer-Trendowicz, K. M. Schnitzspahn, L. Reuter, M. Altgassen


Research on children’s prospective memory (PM) shows an increase of performance across childhood and provides first evidence that encoding strategies such as episodic future thinking (EFT; i.e., engaging in a vivid prospection of oneself performing future tasks) may improve performance. The present study aimed at testing whether the beneficial effects of EFT extend from typical lab-based tasks to more complex tasks with real life demands. Further, it was tested whether children’s ability to project themselves into different perspectives (i.e., self-projection) moderates the effects of EFT encoding on PM. Overall, 56 children (mean age: M = 10.73 years) were included in this study who were randomly assigned to either an EFT or control condition. Children participated in a ‘sightseeing tour’ (ongoing activity) inside the lab with various socially relevant and neutral PM tasks embedded. Results showed significantly higher PM performance in the EFT compared to the control group. There was no difference between neutral and social PM tasks and no interaction between type of PM tasks with encoding condition. Further, self-projection did not moderate the effects of EFT encoding on PM. Results suggest that EFT is an effective strategy to improve children’s everyday PM. These beneficial effects seem to occur independent from children’s general ability to change perspectives and for different types of PM tasks.

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