Future Planning in Preschool Children

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The capacity to plan ahead and provide the means for future ends is an important part of human practical reasoning. When this capacity develops in ontogeny is the matter of an ongoing debate. In this study, 4- and 5-year-olds performed a future planning task in which they had to create the means (a picture of a particular object, e.g., a banana) that was necessary to address a future end (of completing a game in which such a picture was missing). Children of both ages drew more targets than children in a control condition in which there was no future end to be pursued. Along with prior findings, the results suggest a major progression in children’s future thinking between 3 and 5 years. Our findings expand on prior knowledge by showing that young children cannot only identify the probate means to future ends but determine such ends and create the means to achieve them, thus offering compelling evidence for future planning.

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