Do Children and Adolescents Have a Future-Oriented Bias? A Developmental Study of Spontaneous and Cued Past and Future Thinking

Teresa McCormack, Patrick Burns, Patrick O'Connor, Agnieszka Jaroslawska, Eugene M. Caruso

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4 Citations (Scopus)
201 Downloads (Pure)


Previous research has indicated that adults have a future-oriented cognitive bias, one illustration of which is their tendency to report more thoughts about the future than the past during mind-wandering. We examined whether children showed a similar bias, and whether there were any developmental changes in the magnitude of such a bias. Children aged 6-7 years and 9-10 years, adolescents, and adults completed two tasks in which they could report either past or future thoughts: a mind-wandering task assessing spontaneous past and future thinking and a cued episodic thinking task in which they were free to describe either past or future events. Only adults showed a future-oriented bias in the mind-wandering task. Participants in all groups were much more likely to describe past events in the cue word task, and the proportion of future events described did not change developmentally. However, more than a third of the youngest age group produced no descriptions at all of future events, which was a significantly larger proportion than in any other age group, and illustrates the difficulty that some children of this age have with future thinking. Our findings indicate that future-oriented bias and developmental changes in such bias may be task-specific.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)774-787
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number4
Early online date25 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


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