Prospective memory performance in preschoolers: Inhibitory control matters

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The present study focuses on prospective memory in preschoolers. We specifically investigated the effects of age, retrospective memory, and task interruption on prospective memory performance. In the first experiment, testing 60 children aged 3, 4 and 5 years with a prospective memory task that required active ongoing task interruption we obtained an age effect indicating better prospective memory performance for the two older cohorts. Varying retrospective memory load did influence prospective memory response time but did not affect prospective memory accuracy. However, retrospective memory performance showed an age effect and individual differences in retrospective memory ability were related to individual differences in prospective memory performance, even after partialling age. In the second study, we applied a prospective memory task that did not require active ongoing task interruption. Here, testing 62 children aged 3, 4 and 5 years we still found an age effect in retrospective memory but neither an effect of age nor retrospective memory on prospective memory performance. It is concluded that preschoolers even at the age of 3 years can perform prospective memory tasks to a certain extent. Moreover, while retrospective memory still seems to be somewhat related to prospective memory in preschoolers, inhibitory control required for ongoing task interruption seems to be an especially important factor influencing task performance in preschoolers.

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