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Development of prospective memory in early childhood

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Proposed supervisory team: Dr Ruth Ford ()

Theme: Child Development, Memory and Perception

Summary of the research project

The term ‘prospective memory’ (PM) refers to the act of remembering to carry out plans at some appropriate time in the future. For example, a child might want to remember to watch their favourite television program when they get home from school (time-based PM) or convey an important message to their mother when they next see her (event-based PM). Despite an impressive rise in the number of investigations of children’s PM over the last 5-10 years, interest in the underlying mechanisms of development has focused almost exclusively on retrieval of PM intentions, supported by maturation of the prefrontal cortex and associated gains in executive functions (EF), with little attention paid to intention formation. Moreover, an over-emphasis on laboratory-based research has meant that we know almost nothing about how children’s PM develops in everyday life.


The primary aim is to chart the development of children’s PM, and the cognitive abilities contributing to PM, in a large-scale cross-sectional study involving time- and event-based tasks that are either laboratory-based or enacted at home. Additionally, children’s PM will be explored as a function of home environment variables.


Participants will be 3- to 7-year-olds. Children will be asked to complete a battery of tasks designed to measure time- and event-based PM, either in the laboratory or at home. Additionally, they will complete a comprehensive range of tests of cognitive ability relevant to intention formation, maintenance and retrieval. Most of the data collection will take place in kindergartens and infants’ schools. Additionally, for a subset of the children, interactions between the child and parent will be video-recorded in the developmental psychology laboratory at Anglia Ruskin University.

Where you’ll study

Cambridge -


This project is self-funded.

Details of studentships for which funding is available are selected by a competitive process and are advertised on our jobs website as they become available:

Next steps

If you wish to be considered for this project, you will need to apply for our Psychology PhD ( In the section of the application form entitled ’Outline research proposal’, please quote the above title and include a research proposal.

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