Department or Program
Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor
Episodic memory and future thinking are crucial capacities that emerge and undergo substantial development during the preschool years. However, their relationship has rarely been examined in tandem within development. Narratives were elicited from 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children (n = 36) to assess episodic memory and future thinking. The richness of children’s memory and imagined future episodes was measured by the number of episodic details in their narratives. Non-narrative measures of episodic memory and future thinking were also administered. As hypothesized, children’s ability to recall personal events and generate possible future events underwent substantial development during the preschool years on three of the four memory and future thinking tasks, with the exception of narrative future thinking. Nevertheless, narrative memory and narrative future thinking remained correlated even after controlling for working memory, inhibition, verbal ability and narrative fluency. These results suggest the possibility of a common neurocognitive basis underlying narrative memory and narrative future thinking in preschool development. Mental time travel and scene construction are identified as possible common mechanisms underlying this relationship.