Animal Cognition

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 287–295 | Cite as

Prospective memory in children and chimpanzees

  • Bonnie M. PerdueEmail author
  • Theodore A. Evans
  • Rebecca A. Williamson
  • Anna Gonsiorowski
  • Michael J. Beran
Original Paper


Prospective memory (PM) involves remembering to do something at a specific time in the future. Here, we investigate the beginnings of this ability in young children (3-year-olds; Homo sapiens) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) using an analogous task. Subjects were given a choice between two toys (children) or two food items (chimpanzees). The selected item was delivered immediately, whereas the unselected item was hidden in an opaque container. After completing an ongoing quantity discrimination task, subjects could request the hidden item by asking for it (children) or by pointing to the container and identifying the item on a symbol board (chimpanzees). Children and chimpanzees showed evidence of prospective-like memory in this task, as evidenced by successful retrieval of the item at the end of the task, sometimes spontaneously with no prompting from the experimenter. These findings contribute to our understanding of PM from an ontogenetic and comparative perspective.


Chimpanzees Children Prospective memory Comparative cognition Development 



This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (BCS-0924811) and NICHD (P01HD060563), as well as support from Georgia State University through the Second Century Initiative in Primate Social Cognition, Evolution and Behavior (2CI-PSCEB). Bonnie M. Perdue was supported by the Duane M. Rumbaugh fellowship.


  1. Atance CM, Jackson LK (2009) The development and coherence of future-oriented behaviors during the preschool years. J Exp Child Psychol 102:379–391PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beran MJ (2001) Summation and numerousness judgments of sequentially presented sets of items by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). J Comp Psychol 155:181–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beran MJ (2004) Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) respond to nonvisible sets after one-by-one addition and removal of items. J Comp Psychol 118:25–36PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beran MJ, Beran MM (2004) Chimpanzees remember the results of one-by-one addition of food items to sets over extended time periods. Psychol Sci 15:94–99PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beran MJ, Parrish AE (2012) Sequential responding and planning in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). Anim Cogn 15:1085–1094PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beran MJ, Pate JL, Washburn DA, Rumbaugh DM (2004) Sequential responding and planning in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process 30:203–212PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beran MJ, Perdue BM, Bramlett JL, Menzel CR, Evans TA (2012) Prospective memory in a language-trained chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Learn Motiv 43:192–199PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Biro D, Matsuzawa T (1999) Numerical ordering in a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes): planning, executing, and monitoring. J Comp Psychol 113:178–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bischof N (1978) On the phylogeny of human morality. In: Stent G (ed) Morality as a biological phenomenon. Abakon, Berlin, pp 53–74Google Scholar
  10. Brakke KE, Savage-Rumbaugh ES (1995) The development of language skills in bonobo and chimpanzee: I. Comprehension. Lang Commun 15:121–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brakke KE, Savage-Rumbaugh ES (1996) The development of language skills in Pan: II Production. Lang Commun 16:361–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burgess PW, Gonen-Yaacovi G, Volle E (2011) Functional neuroimaging studies of prospective memory: what have we learnt so far? Neuropsychologia 49:2246–2257PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ceci SJ, Bronfenbrenner U (1985) “Don’t forget to take the cupcakes out of the oven’’: prospective memory, strategic time-monitoring, and context. Child Dev 56:152–164PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cockburn J, Smith PT (1991) The relative influence of intelligence and age on everyday memory. J Gerontol Psychol Sci 46:31–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dismukes K (2008) Prospective memory in everyday and aviation settings. In: Kliegel M, McDaniel MA, Einstein GO (eds) Prospective memory: cognitive, neuroscience, developmental, and applied perspectives. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, New York, pp 411–431Google Scholar
  16. Einstein GO, McDaniel MA (1990) Normal aging and prospective memory. J Exp Psychol Learn 16:716–726CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Einstein GO, McDaniel MA (2005) Prospective memory: multiple retrieval processes. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 14:286–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ellis JA (1996) Prospective memory or the realization of delayed intentions: a conceptual framework for research. In: Brandimonte M, Einstein GO, McDaniel MA (eds) Prospective memory: theory and applications. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, pp 1–22Google Scholar
  19. Ellis JA, Freeman JE (2008) Realizing delayed intentions. In: Kliegel M, McDaniel MA, Einstein GO (eds) Prospective memory: cognitive, neuroscience, developmental and applied perspectives. Lawrence Erlbaum, New York, pp 1–27Google Scholar
  20. Evans TE, Beran MJ (2012) Monkeys exhibit prospective memory in a computerized task. Cognition 125:131–140PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kliegel M, Jäger T (2007) The effects of age and cue-action reminders on event-based prospective memory performance in preschoolers. Cogn Dev 22:33–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kliegel M, McDaniel MA, Einstein GO (2000) Plan formation, retention, and execution in prospective memory: a new approach and age related effects. Mem Cogn 28:1041–1049CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kliegel M, Mackinlay R, Jager T (2008) Complex prospective memory: development across the lifespan and the role of task interruption. Dev Psychol 44:612–617PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kvavilashvili L, Messer D, Ebdon P (2001) Prospective memory in children: the effects of age and task interruption. Dev Psychol 37:418–430PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Marsh RJ, Hicks JL, Landau JD (1998) An investigation of everyday prospective memory. Mem Cogn 26:633–643CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McDaniel MA, Einstein GO (2007) Prospective memory: an overview and synthesis of an emerging field. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, CAGoogle Scholar
  27. Mulcahy NJ, Call J (2006) Apes save tools for future use. Science 312:1038–1040PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Naqshbandi M, Roberts WA (2006) Anticipation of future events in squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) and rats (Ratus norvegicus): tests of the Bischof-Kohler hypothesis. J Comp Psychol 120:345–357PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Osvath M, Osvath H (2008) Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and orangutan (Pongo abelii) forethought: self-control and pre-experience in the face of future tool use. Anim Cogn 11:661–674PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Roberts WA (2002) Are animals stuck in time? Psychol Bull 128:473–489PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rumbaugh DM (1977) Language learning by a chimpanzee: the LANA project. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. Rumbaugh DM, Washburn DA (2003) Intelligence of apes and other rational beings. Yale University Press, New HavenCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Savage-Rumbaugh ES (1986) Ape language: from conditioned response to symbol. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. Semendeferi K, Armstrong E, Schleicher A, Zilles K, Van Housen GW (2001) Prefrontal cortex in humans and apes: a comparative study of area 10. Am J Phys Anthropol 114:224–241PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shallice T, Burgess P (1991) Deficits in strategy application following frontal lobe damage in man. Brain 114:727–741PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Smith RE, Bayen UJ, Martin C (2010) The cognitive processes underlying event-based prospective memory in school age children and young adults: a formal model-based study. Dev Psychol 46:230–244PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Suddendorf T, Corballis MC (2007) The evolution of foresight: what is mental time travel, and is it unique to humans? Behav Brain Sci 30:299–351PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Tulving E (2005) Episodic memory and autonoesis: uniquely human? In: Terrace H, Metcalfe J (eds) The missing link in cognition: evolution of self-knowing consciousness. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 3–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wilson AC, Crystal JD (2012) Prospective memory in the rat. Anim Cogn 15:349–358PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wilson AC, Pizzo MJ, Crystal JD (2013) Event-based prospective memory in the rat. Curr Biol 23:1089–1093PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bonnie M. Perdue
    • 1
    Email author
  • Theodore A. Evans
    • 1
  • Rebecca A. Williamson
    • 2
  • Anna Gonsiorowski
    • 2
  • Michael J. Beran
    • 1
  1. 1.Language Research CenterGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations