Foresight beyond the very next event: four-year-olds can link past and deferred future episodes

Front Psychol. 2013 Jul 9;4:404. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00404. eCollection 2013.


Previous experiments have demonstrated that by 4 years of age children can use information from a past episode to solve a problem for the very next future episode. However, it remained unclear whether 4-year-olds can similarly use such information to solve a problem for a more removed future episode that is not of immediate concern. In the current study we introduced 4-year-olds to problems in one room before taking them to another room and distracting them for 15 min. The children were then offered a choice of items to place into a bucket that was to be taken back to the first room when a 5-min sand-timer had completed a cycle. Across two conceptually distinct domains, the children placed the item that could solve the deferred future problem above chance level. This result demonstrates that by 48 months many children can recall a problem from the past and act in the present to solve that problem for a deferred future episode. We discuss implications for theories about the nature of episodic foresight.

Keywords: episodic foresight; episodic memory; mental time travel; planning; problem solving.