Development of Episodic Memory and Foresight in High-Functioning Preschoolers with ASD

  • Mika NaitoEmail author
  • Chie Hotta
  • Motomi Toichi
Original Paper


To investigate the early development of episodic memory and future thinking in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), we selected 94 participants each from a group of ASD and typically developing (TD) preschoolers. They were required to remember newly-acquired knowledge sources and anticipate action timings necessary for future events. Five-year-old children with ASD remembered their knowledge sources similar to TD children; however, the 6-year-old children performed more poorly than their TD counterparts. ASD children failed to anticipate future action timings in comparison with TD children. Although source memory and future thinking were related in TD children, they were unrelated in children with ASD. The results suggest that episodic memory and foresight are deficient and unintegrated in ASD children during the preschool years.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) Preschoolers Episodic memory Episodic future thinking Source memory 



The study was supported by the Organization for Promoting Neurodevelopmental Disorder Research. We are grateful to Remi Kosaka, Minori Nakamura, Seiko Nabatame, Eriko Gavinio for their help in data collection, and to Drs. Noriko Kimura and Sayaka Yoshimura for diagnosing children with ASD. We also thank the children, teachers, and principals at the nursery and primary schools in Yasu, Shiga, and Sakai, Osaka, Japan, for their cooperation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All study components received the approval of the university’s Institutional Review Board.

Informed Consent

The parents of all children released their informed consent for their children’s participation in the study and to the treatment of the data.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th ed.; DSM-IV. Washington: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5 (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atance, C. (2015). Young children’s thinking about the future. Child Development Perspectives,9, 178–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Atance, C., & O’Neill, D. K. (2001). Episodic future thinking. Trends in Cognitive Sciences,5, 533–539.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bennetto, L., Pennington, B. F., & Rogers, S. J. (1996). Intact and impaired memory function in autism. Child Development,67, 1816–1835.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beversdorf, D. Q., Anderson, J. M., Manning, S. E., Anderson, S. L., Nordgren, R. E., Felopulos, G. J., et al. (1998). The effect of semantic and emotional context on written recall for verbal language in high functioning adults with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry,65, 685–692.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boucher, J., & Bowler, D. (Eds.). (2008). Memory in autism: Theory and evidence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Boucher, J., Pons, F., Lind, S., & Williams, D. (2007). Temporal cognition in children with autistic spectrum disorder: Tests of diachronic thinking. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,37, 1413–1429.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bowler, D. M., Gardiner, J. M., & Grice, S. J. (2000). Episodic memory and remembering in adults with Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,30, 295–304.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bruck, M., London, K., Landa, R., & Goodman, J. (2007). Autobiographical memory and suggestibility in children with autism spectrum disorder. Development and Psychopathology,19, 73–95.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Busby Grant, J., & Suddendorf, T. (2010). Production of temporal terms by 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly,26, 87–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Coolican, J., Bryson, S. E., & Zwaigenbaum, L. (2008). Data on the Stanford-Binet intelligence scales (5th ed.) in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,38, 190–197.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Crane, L., & Goddard, L. (2008). Episodic and semantic autobiographical memory in adults with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,38, 498–506.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dawson, M., Soulières, I., Gernsbacher, M. A., & Mottron, L. (2007). The level and nature of autistic intelligence. Psychological Science,18, 657–662.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Drummey, A. B., & Newcombe, N. S. (2002). Developmental changes in source memory. Developmental Science,5, 502–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Facon, B., Magis, D., Nuchadee, M.-L., & De Boeck, P. (2011). Do Raven’s Colored Progressive Matrices function in the same way in typical and clinical populations?: Insights from the intellectual disability field. Intelligence,39, 281–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Friedman, W. J. (1992). Children’s time memory: The development of a differentiated past. Cognitive Development,7, 171–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goddard, L., Dritschel, B., Robinson, S., & Howlin, P. (2014). Development of autobiographical memory in children with autism spectrum disorders: Deficits, gains, and predictors of performance. Development and Psychopathology,26, 215–228.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goddard, L., Howlin, P., Dritschel, B., & Patel, T. (2007). Autobiographical memory and social problem solving in Asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,37, 291–300.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gopnik, A., & Graf, P. (1988). Knowing how you know: Young children’s ability to identify and remember the sources of their beliefs. Child Development,59, 1366–1371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grondhuis, S. N., Lecavalier, L., Arnold, L. E., Handen, B. L., Scahill, L., McDougle, C. J., et al. (2018). Differences in verbal and nonverbal IQ test scores in children with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders,49, 47–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hala, S., Rasmussen, C., & Henderson, A. M. E. (2005). Three types of source monitoring by children with and without autism: The role of executive function. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,35, 75–89.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hanson, L. K., & Atance, C. M. (2014). Episodic foresight in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,44, 674–684.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harner, L. (1975). Yesterday and tomorrow: Development of early understanding of the terms. Developmental Psychology,11, 864–865.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hayashi, M., Kato, M., Igarashi, K., & Kashima, H. (2008). Superior fluid intelligence in children with Asperger’s disorder. Brain and Cognition,66, 306–310.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Henderson, H. A., Zahka, N. E., Kojkowki, N. M., Inge, A. P., Schwartz, C. B., Hileman, C. M., et al. (2009). Self-referenced memory, social cognition, and symptom presentation in autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry,50, 853–861.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hudson, J. A., Meyhew, E. M. Y., & Prabhakar, J. (2011). The development of episodic foresight: Emerging concepts and methods. In J. B. Benson (Ed.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior (pp. 95–137). Amsterdam: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kamio, Y., & Toichi, M. (2007). Memory illustion in high-functioning autism and Asperger’s Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,37, 867–876.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Klein, S. B. (2016). Autonoetic consciousness: Reconsidering the role of episodic memory in future-oriented self-projection. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,69, 381–401.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Koyama, T., & Kurita, H. (2008). Cognitive profile difference between normally intelligent children with Asperger’s disorder and those with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences,62, 691–696.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lind, S. E., & Bowler, D. M. (2008). Episodic memory and autonoetic consciousness in autistic spectrum disorders: The role of self-awareness, representational abilities and temporal cognition. In J. Boucher & D. Bowler (Eds.), Memory in autism: Theory and evidence (pp. 166–187). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lind, S. E., & Bowler, D. M. (2009). Recognition memory, self-other source memory, and theory of mind in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,39, 1231–1239.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lind, S. E., & Bowler, D. M. (2010). Episodic memory and episodic future thinking in adults with autism. Journal of Abnormal Psychology,119, 896–905.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lind, S. E., Williams, D. M., Bowler, D. M., & Peel, A. (2014). Episodic memory and episodic future thinking impairments in high-functioning autism spectrum disorder: An underlying difficulty with scene construction or self-projection? Neuropsychology,28, 55–67.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marini, A., Ferretti, F., Chiera, A., Magni, R., Adornetti, I., Nicchiarelli, S., et al. (2016). Self-based and mechanical-based future thinking in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,46, 3353–3360.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McCormack, T., & Hoerl, C. (1999). Memory and temporal perspective: The role of temporal frameworks in memory development. Developmental Review,19, 154–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McCormack, T., & Hoerl, C. (2001). The child in time: Temporal concepts and self-consciousness in the development of episodic memory. In C. Moore & K. Lemmon (Eds.), The self in time: Developmental perspectives (pp. 203–227). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  38. McCrory, E., Henry., L. A., & Happé, F. (2007). Eye-witness memory and suggestibility in children with Asperger syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry,48, 482–489.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Millward, C., Powell, S., Messer, D., & Jordan, R. (2000). Recall for self and other in autism: Children’s memory for events experienced by themselves and their peers. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,30, 15–28.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  40. Naito, M. (2003). The relationship between theory of mind and episodic memory: Evidence for the development of autonoetic consciousness. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,85, 312–336.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Naito, M., & Suzuki, T. (2011). “When did I learn and when shall I act?”: The developmental relationship between episodic future thinking and memory. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,109, 397–411.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Neisser, U. (1988). Five kinds of self-knowledge. Philosophical Psychology,1, 35–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. O’Shea, A. G., Fein, D. A., Cillessen, A. H. N., Klin, A., & Schultz, R. T. (2005). Source memory in children with autism spectrum disorders. Developmental Neuropsychology,27, 337–360.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Renner, R., Klinger, L. G., & Klinger, M. R. (2000). Implicit and explicit memory in autism: Is autism an amnesic disorder? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,30, 3–14.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schacter, D. L., & Addis, D. R. (2008). The cognitive neuroscience of constructive memory: Remembering the past and imagining the future. In I. Driver, P. Haggard, & T. Shallice (Eds.), Mental processes in the human brain (pp. 27–47). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Soulières, I., Dawson, M., Gernsbacher, M. A., & Mottron, L. (2011). The level and nature of autistic intelligence. II: What about Asperger syndrome? PLoS ONE,6, e25372.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Suddendorf, T. (2010). Linking yesterday and tomorrow: Preschoolers’ ability to report temporally displaced events. British Journal of Developmental Psychology,28, 491–498.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Suddendorf, T. (2016). Episodic memory versus episodic foresight: Similarities and differences. WIREs Cognitive Science,1, 99–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Suddendorf, T., & Corballis, M. C. (1997). Mental time travel and the evolution of the human mind. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs,123, 133–167.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Suddendorf, T., Nielsen, M., & von Gehlen, R. (2011). Children’s capacity to remember a novel problem and to secure its future solution. Developmental Science,14, 26–33.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sugishita, M., & Yamazaki, K. (1993). Japanese Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices. Tokyo: Nihon Bunka Kagaku-sha.Google Scholar
  52. Tanweer, T., Rathbone, C. J., & Souchay, C. (2010). Autobiographical memory, autonoetic consciousness, and identity in Asperger syndrome. Neuropsychologia,48, 900–908.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Taylor, M., Esbensen, B. M., & Bennett, R. T. (1994). Children’s understanding of knowledge acquisition: The tendency for children to report that they have always known what they have just learned. Child Development,65, 1581–1604.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Terrett, G., Rendell, P. G., Raponi-Sauders, S., Henry, J. D., Bailey, P. E., & Altgassen, M. (2013). Episodic future thinking in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,43, 2558–2568.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Toichi, M. (2008). Episodic memory, semantic memory and self-awareness in high-functioning autism. In J. Boucher & D. Bowler (Eds.), Memory in autism: Theory and evidence (pp. 143–165). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Toichi, M., Kamio, Y., Okada, T., Sakihama, M., Youngstrom, E. A., Findling, R. L., et al. (2002). A lack of self-consciousness in autism. American Journal of Psychiatry,159, 1422–1424.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Tulving, E. (1985). Memory and consciousness. Canadian Psychology,26, 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tulving, E. (2005). Episodic memory and autonoesis: Uniquely human? In H. S. Terrace & J. Metcalfe (Eds.), The missing link in cognition: Origins of self-reflective consciousness (pp. 3–56). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Ueno, K., Nagoshi, S., & Konuki, S. (2008). The picture vocabulary test-revised. Tokyo: Nihon Bunka Kagaku-sha.Google Scholar
  60. Yoshimura, S., & Toichi, M. (2014). A lack of self-consciousness in Asperger’s disorder but not in PDDNOS: Implication for the clinical importance of ASD subtypes. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders,8, 237–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of School Education, Graduate School of School EducationJoetsu University of EducationJoetsuJapan
  2. 2.Department of EducationKansai University of Welfare ScienceKashiwaraJapan
  3. 3.Faculty of Human Health Science, Graduate School of MedicineKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  4. 4.The Organization for Promoting Neurodevelopmental Disorder ResearchKyotoJapan

Personalised recommendations