Volitional Control Development in Children (completed)

There is empirical evidence that the ability to remember to perform delayed intentions (prospective memory; PM) develops across childhood and adolescence. However, very little is known about the developmental processes that may be associated with possible age differences obtained in PM across childhood and adolescence. Although the parallel development of volitional control functions has been suggested as a possible mechanism underlying these age-related changes, experimental evidence is virtually inexistent. Moreover, while most research has focused on the stages of intention initiation and execution of prospective remembering (McDaniel & Einstein, 2007), evidence on the impact of intention formation on PM performance is limited. However, thorough intention formation may improve execution of delayed intentions by reducing the need for resource-demanding volitional control processes and supporting automatic processing. Thus, to fill this gap in the literature, the primary aim of this research project is to investigate PM across childhood and adolescence with a specific focus on the impact of intention formation on later intention initiation and execution under low and high volitional control demands. Specifically, the influence of explicit if-then intention formation (i.e., implementation intentions) on successfully initiating and executing intentions will be investigated. Importantly, following the control dilemma framework of the CRC, supporting the execution of delayed intentions with implementation intentions may not only be associated with beneficial effects, but increased shielding of goal intentions following the formation of implementation intentions may also lead to detrimental effects when goal intentions change or end (Goschke & Dreisbach, 2008). So far research on negative effects of implementation intentions is virtually inexistent. Therefore, the proposed project will investigate in a first set of studies the beneficial impact of implementation intentions on PM performance across childhood and adolescence while systematically manipulating volitional control demands in the intention initiation and execution phases. A second set of studies will then focus on the potential detrimental effects of implementation intentions when goal intentions are deactivated.