Future Thinking

Image of kid doing the dishes.

Kids, remember to pick up your toys! No, ALL the toys!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Do your homework! Take out the trash! Rinse off those dishes! Chores often slip our kids’ minds. Why? Because their ability to remember previously planned actions — prospective memory — isn’t fully developed until late adolescence. How can we help them focus on their tasks? 

Milvia Cottini from the Free University of Bolzano-Bozen in Italy and colleagues investigated! Over one-hundred kids ages 7 to 11 played a computer game: help Karl tidy up the apartment and pack his lunch! 

Some kids were given special instructions. Before playing, they imagined their future actions, completing each step, and predicted their performance in the game.  

Results? Kids who IMAGINED and PREDICTED the future raised their performance by nearly 60%! 

So how can we nudge youngsters to do their chores? Cottini says: by helping them imagine themselves doing them, and doing them well!

Now, just imagine YOURSELF getting your tax extension in on time. See how easy it is?

Reference: Cottini, M., Basso, D., & Palladino, P. (2021). Improving prospective memory in school-aged children: Effects of future thinking and performance predictions. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 204, 105065. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2020.105065