RUB » Faculty of Psychology » MHRTC » Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology » Research »  Developmental and Clinical Baby Research


Developmental and Clinial Baby Research

Head:Dr. Babett Voigt, Dr. Carolin Konrad

Episodic Foresight
"How episodic foresight develops: The role of executive functions and motivation".

Principal Investigator and Team:
Dr. Babett Voigt
Jessica Marks, M.Sc.

Study Participation

Principal Investigator and Team

Dr. Babett Voigt


German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, VO 2325/2-1)


36 Months


Episodic foresight describes the ability to imagine specific events of one’s personal future and to adapt current behavior accordingly. It supports planning, self-regulation, and decision-making. Hence, understanding its development during childhood is of critical importance. Existing research reports more frequent episodic foresight among older compared to younger preschool children. Evidence regarding the time of onset of episodic foresight is inconsistent. These two observations raise two key questions. (1) Which mechanisms may drive the differences between younger and older preschool children? The developmental framework of episodic foresight claims that executive functions explain higher performance in older compared to younger preschool children. The hot/ cool framework proposes that in contexts of motivational significance, ‘hot’ executive functions play a stronger role compared to motivational neutral situations. (2) Which contextual factors influence the emergence of episodic foresight (early vs. late) and which mechanisms underlie these context-dependent differences? Theoretical models suggest that motivation plays a critical role here, but diverge in their predictions how. The hot/ cool framework proposes a decelerated emergence of episodic foresight in motivational significant contexts compared to motivational neutral contexts. The dual competition model differentiates, only motivation arising from a current desire (that differs from future demands) protracts emergence, whereas motivation arising from the importance of a future event accelerates emergence. Developmental accounts on desire reasoning limit the decelerating influence of current desires to current desires that are mutually exclusive with future demands. So far, existing research is insufficient in the evaluation of the theoretical claims about the role of executive functions and motivation, partly because of methodological shortcomings. The current research program aims to close this gap and comprises of two experiments (Experiment 1: N = 272; Experiment 2: N = 272). In both experiments, ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ executive functions and episodic foresight is examined according to current guidelines. In both experiments, children’s motivation for the future episode (high, low) and children’s status of holding a current non-physiological desire are independently manipulated. The current desire is different but compatible with the upcoming desire (Experiment 1: compatible, neutral) or it is in conflict with fulfilling the upcoming desire (Experiment 2: conflict, neutral). Findings will have implications for the developmental framework ofepisodic foresight including possible specifications regarding the context-dependency of developmental mechanisms and developmental patterns. Findings about the role of executive functions and motivation provide important information how to design future studies and how to foster episodic foresight form early on.