Investigating the Role of Executive Processes in Young Children's Prospective Memory
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Prospective memory (PM) is the ability to remember to carry out one's intentions. This is a critical ability for children to develop in order to function independently in their daily activities. This dissertation examines the role of executive functioning in preschoolers' PM in two studies that vary the executive demand at different stages of the PM task. Study 1 investigated the role of task difficulty during the retention interval prior to the PM task. A difficult working memory task during the delay period resulted in worse PM performance in 4- and 5-year-olds compared to an easy working memory task. In addition, children's working memory, planning ability, and theory of mind correlated with PM but only in the difficult filler task condition. Study 2 examined age differences between 4- and 5-year-olds in PM task performance when the task: (1) was embedded in an easy or difficult ongoing task, (2) had an instruction to focus on the intention versus an instruction to focus on the distractor activity during the retention interval, and (3) varied in the salience of prospective targets. Overall, 5-year-olds performed better on the PM task than 4-year-olds. Children also had superior PM when targets were salient compared to non-salient and marginally superior PM when they received an instruction to monitor their intention compared to when they received an instruction to focus on the distractor activity. In addition, positive relations between executive functioning and PM were documented. Taken together, these studies suggest that disrupting or encouraging monitoring has a direct impact on PM performance in certain conditions. The implications of these results for theories that suggest differing roles for controlled processes in PM are discussed.