A Project of the University of Pennsylvania and the John Templeton Foundation

Remembering the past to envision the future in middle childhood: Developmental linkages between prospection and episodic memory

Published: April, 2014

Researcher(s): Coughlin, C., Lyons, K. E., & Ghetti, S.


Prospection is the mental simulation of future events and may promote positive, future-oriented action in the present. Despite evidence of a relation between prospection and episodic memory, there is a paucity of research comparing the developmental trajectories of each during middle childhood, a time of substantial episodic memory development. This study examined prospection and episodic memory in 5-, 7-, and 9-year-old children and adults (N = 80). Participants provided narratives and introspective judgments about their experience of mentalizing past and future events. The development of prospection was more protracted than that of episodic memory, although individual differences in past event episodicity predicted prospection. Although both prospection and episodic memory were characterized by a rich subjective experience, future events were rated as more difficult to envision and were more frequently viewed in the third-person perspective. Although both prospection and episodic memory appear to improve during middle childhood, results suggest that prospection may require additional skills.

JTF grant funded: No