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Mental time travel for self and other in three- and four-year-old children

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Humans possess the unique ability to mentally travel backward in time to re-experience past events (i.e., episodic memory) and forward in time to pre-experience future events (i.e., episodic foresight). Although originally viewed as different cognitive skills, they are now both viewed as components of the episodic memory system. Recently, it has been suggested that the episodic system may allow us to not only pre-experience and predict our own future but also that of another person. In the current study, we investigate this possibility by examining the ability of three- and four-year-old children to plan for their own future and for that of another person. We found that both three- and four-year-old children performed equally, when planning for their own future or when planning for the experimenter's future. These data are consistent with the finding that planning for someone else's future recruits the same neural structures that are used when planning for one's own future.
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Keywords: Episodic foresight; Episodic memory; Mental time travel; Planning

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Publication date: July 4, 2015

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