Training prospective abilities through conversation about the extended self

Abstract

The ability to act on behalf of our future selves is related to uniquely human abilities such as planning, delay of gratification, and goal attainment. While prospection develops rapidly during early childhood, little is known about the mechanisms that support its development. Here we explored whether encouraging children to talk about their extended selves (self outside the present context) boosts their prospective abilities. Preschoolers (N = 81) participated in a 5-minute interaction with an adult in which they were asked to talk about events in the near future, distant future, near past, or present. Compared with children discussing their present and distant future, children asked to discuss events in their near future or near past displayed better planning and prospective memory. Additionally, those two conditions were most effective in eliciting self-projection (use of personal pronouns). Results suggest that experience communicating about the close-in-time, extended self contributes to children’s future-oriented thinking.


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