The development of prospective memory in childhood

Thu, 02/03/2022 - 14:23
The development of prospective memory in childhood

The development of prospective memory in childhood

From an early age, people have to remember to do some activities, such as doing homework or asking parents for consent for a school trip.


This ability to remember is called prospective memory, which allows us to remember to perform some activity in the future or after a certain event. For example, when a child remembers that he has to take the cardboard to class the next day when he sees a classmate with cardboard. Ana B. Cejudo and María Teresa Bajo, researchers at the CIMCYC-UGR and members of the Memory & Language Research Group, have carried out a study focused on prospective memory.


School-age children (6 and 11 years old) have participated in this research. The volunteers were asked to perform a task under three experimental conditions: simple (continuous task), focal task and non-focal task (prospective tasks). In the simple condition, the participants had to complete a continuous task that consisted of deciding if the drawings that appeared in the center of the screen were animals or not. In the focal task, in which the cue is in the attentional focus, in addition to performing the continuous task, they had to press a key when a ball appeared on the screen. In the non-focal task, in addition to performing the continuous task, they had to press a key if the edge of the screen changed color.


The results showed that the children were faster when they only had to perform the continuous task than when they did both at the same time (continuous task and the prospective task). In addition, when they did both tasks, responses were faster when the prospective cue was presented within the attentional focus than when it was presented outside. These results were observed in both 6-year-olds and 11-year-olds, although the 6-year-olds took a little longer to respond.


In conclusion, prospective memory develops during school age and improves when the cues we receive are in our attentional focus. That is, a child is more likely to remember to bring a pencil to class if it is on top of his notebook than if it is in the corner of the table.


Researchers contact

-Ana Belén Cejudo: @email

-María Teresa Bajo: @email


Full reference

Cejudo, A. B., Gómez-Ariza, C. J., y Bajo, M. T. (2019). The cost of prospective memory in children: The role of cue focality. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 2738.