skip to primary navigationskip to content

Young Children's Future Thinking Study


Future thinking study 

 “Here comes the train!”

Background to our study

Our study concerns the development of children's thinking about the future – not thinking about the future in a generalised sense but thinking about particular future experiences and the content of those experiences. We think this is the closest analogue to episodic memory (the ‘reliving’ of past experiences) and that it should therefore share many of the same features of episodic memory. Our current study therefore is a continuation of work that we have previously conducted on children’s earliest episodic memory.

Click here to see a poster about episodic memory which we presented at Cambridge University's Science Festival open day.

The slow train gameDaniel mental rotation

We have an oval shaped train track on which a train travels. Along the sides of the track are walls with a small jack window cut out for children to peer through on to the track. The train is painted blue on one side and red on the other side and moves very slowly around the track. Children will be asked to predict how the train will look when it eventually reaches the window in the wall. We are interested to see whether children can work out the colour of the train and direction that it will move past the window.

Additional games

The children also play a number of additional ‘games’, which assess different aspects of cognitive development and which we think might be related to thinking about the future.

These are games which, in turn, test children’s understanding of how different senses give different kinds of knowledge, their ability to flexibly think about temporal order in language, the ability to mentally rotate objects, their ability to engage in hypothetical reasoning and finally a standard test of children’s vocabulary size.

Age range: 3.5 to 6.5 years.

Visits: two visits on any two days of your convenience.  Appointments on the weekend and in the evenings are possible.

Expenses: We are happy to pay £8 towards expenses.

For study flier click here.

Our address: The Craik-Marshall Building, The Downing Site, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EB. Click here for map.

To arrange an appointment call Pat Burns on 01223 764413 or email