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Remembering to remember: how do children develop the skills necessary to organise their future behaviour?

Mackinlay, Rachael Jane; (2004) Remembering to remember: how do children develop the skills necessary to organise their future behaviour? Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The successful organisation of future behaviour is a fundamental skill underpinning daily life. Each day we plan to perform multiple actions and activities ahead of time, and execute these planned actions at an appropriate time and place. The cognitive processes underlying such 'future-oriented' skills have been the recent focus of adult studies; surprisingly little research has investigated the development of these abilities in children. Adult research studies have successfully employed 'multitasking paradigms' to study these skills and have identified a number of cognitive processes that support the organisation of future behaviour. The focus of this research was to use multitasking as a methodology to assess the cognitive skills involved in organisation of future behaviour in childhood. We developed the Battersea Multitask Paradigm, a novel test to assess future organisation skills in children and adults. The paradigm also enabled us to investigate the cognitive processes that underlie the organisation of future action, including retrospective memory, prospective memory (memory for intentions), planning and executive functions. We tested groups of children aged 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14 years, and a group of young adults, and found significant developmental differences in multitask performance. These findings are interpreted as evidence that the ability to organise future behaviour develops from 6 years of age into young adulthood. We also examined the developmental trajectories of the cognitive processes underlying multitasking. Results indicate that children under 10 years old find it difficult to co-ordinate performance across multiple tasks, and their performance declines when they are asked to do so. This is likely to represent age-related differences in prospective memory and information processing capacity. In contrast, performance differences between older children and adults are attributable to developments in executive strategy use. The ability to organise future behaviour can be impaired in children with developmental disorders. We investigated multitasking in a group of boys with autism spectrum disorder. These boys had significant difficulties organising future activities in their day-to-day lives, and this was reflected in multitask performance decrements relative to typically developing controls. The Battersea Multitask Paradigm is a novel test with the unusual quality of being useable and challenging to 6 year olds as well as to adults and atypical populations, which can reveal the component parts of the cognitive processes underlying the organisation of future-oriented behaviour.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Remembering to remember: how do children develop the skills necessary to organise their future behaviour?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099683
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