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Talking to preschoolers about the near-past or future helps them make better decisions

03 April 2017

There could be an Arctic blizzard blowing outside for all little Mary cares. The fact is, she’s hot from running around indoors, and no matter how much you try to explain to Mary that her future self – the one that’s about to go walking in the cold – would really appreciate that she put her coat and warm clothes on, Mary, like most kids aged under five, finds it very difficult to step outside of the present and consider her future needs.

While psychologists have already spent a lot of time demonstrating the limitations of young children’s ability to think about the future, until now they’ve not looked much at whether it’s possible to target these “prospective abilities”.

However, a new study in Developmental Psychology has done that, showing that a mere five-minute chat about their recent past or future selves seems to help preschoolers remember to do things in the future, and to “time travel” mentally, so that they make better decisions about their forthcoming needs. 

Read more on our Research Digest blog.


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