Prospective memory in children and chimpanzees

Anim Cogn. 2014 Mar;17(2):287-95. doi: 10.1007/s10071-013-0661-8. Epub 2013 Jul 25.


Prospective memory (PM) involves remembering to do something at a specific time in the future. Here, we investigate the beginnings of this ability in young children (3-year-olds; Homo sapiens) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) using an analogous task. Subjects were given a choice between two toys (children) or two food items (chimpanzees). The selected item was delivered immediately, whereas the unselected item was hidden in an opaque container. After completing an ongoing quantity discrimination task, subjects could request the hidden item by asking for it (children) or by pointing to the container and identifying the item on a symbol board (chimpanzees). Children and chimpanzees showed evidence of prospective-like memory in this task, as evidenced by successful retrieval of the item at the end of the task, sometimes spontaneously with no prompting from the experimenter. These findings contribute to our understanding of PM from an ontogenetic and comparative perspective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Child, Preschool
  • Choice Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Pan troglodytes / psychology*
  • Reward