The Effect of Episodic Future Thinking on Young Children’s Future-Oriented Decision Making

Patrick Burns, Teresa McCormack, Patrick A. O'Connor, Aine Fitzpatrick, Cristina Atance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We investigated whether the developmental emergence of episodic future thinking (EFT) is associated with performance on a type of delay of gratification task: a delay choice task that involved choosing between a small reward now or a larger reward the next day. In Study 1, 4-to-5-year-olds’ (N = 99) EFT as measured by a tool saving task was significantly associated with performance on the delay choice task, but this was not the case for other EFT measures. Study 2 compared the performance of 4-to-5-year-olds (N = 130) on the delay choice task when cued to think about either a future, past, or habitual event versus a no-cue baseline. Overall, cueing impaired performance on the delay choice task. While EFT does show a relation to performance in a delay choice task in pre-schoolers, deliberately engaging in thought about future events may be too taxing in young children to reliably enhance the ability to make future-oriented decisions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Publication statusAccepted - 19 Feb 2021

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