Future thinking instructions improve prospective memory performance in adolescents

Mareike Altgassen*, Anett Kretschmer, Katharina Marlene Schnitzspahn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
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Studies on prospective memory (PM) development in adolescents point to age-related increases through to adulthood. The goal of the present study was to examine whether instructing adolescents to engage in an episodic prospection of themselves executing future actions (i.e., future thinking) when forming an intention would improve their PM performance and reduce age-related differences. Further, we set out to explore whether future thinking instructions result in stronger memory traces and/or stronger cue–context associations by evaluating retrospective memory for the PM cues after task completion and monitoring costs during PM task processing. Adolescents and young adults were allocated to either the future thinking, repeated-encoding or standard condition. As expected, adolescents had fewer correct PM responses than young adults. Across age groups, PM performance in the standard condition was lower than in the other encoding conditions. Importantly, the results indicate a significant interaction of age by encoding condition. While adolescents benefited most from future thinking instructions, young adults performed best in the repeated-encoding condition. The results also indicate that the beneficial effects of future thinking may result from deeper intention-encoding through the simulation of future task performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)536-553
Number of pages18
JournalChild Neuropsychology
Issue number5
Early online date28 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the German Research Foundation [DFG grants SFB 940/1].

We would like to thank Lia Kvavilashvili for her helpful comments on this study during the International Conference on Prospective Memory (ICPM4) in Naples, Italy, 2014. We thank Daniel P. Sheppard for proofreading the manuscript.


  • Adolescence
  • Executive functions
  • Future thinking
  • Imagery
  • Prospective memory


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