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Inhibition and cognitive flexibility are related to prediction of one's own future preferences in young British and Chinese children.

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Ding, Ning 
Miller, Rachael 
Clayton, Nicola S 


The ability to shift from current to future perspective is pivotal to future-oriented cognition. With two distinct cultural groups, UK (N = 92) and China (N = 90), we investigated 3 to 5-year-olds' understanding of preference changes occurring within themselves and their peers (another child). We administered a battery of representative tasks of executive function and theory of mind to examine their underlying relationships with children's ability to predict future preferences. British 3-year-olds outperformed Chinese children in predicting future preferences, while no country differences were observed between the 4- and 5-year-olds. Across the UK and China, children were more accurate when predicting for their peers than for themselves. They were also more accurate when their current preferences were identified first, i.e. before answering questions about the future. Chinese children outperformed their British counterparts on inhibition and cognitive flexibility tasks whereas there were no Eastern and Western differences in their theory of mind abilities. After controlling for age and children's knowledge of generic adult preferences, children's performance in the inhibition and cognitive flexibility tasks were significantly correlated with the prediction of their own future preferences, but they were not significantly correlated when predicting for a peer. These results are discussed in relation to the conflicts between multiple perspectives and the cognitive correlates of future-oriented cognition.



Cognitive development, Cross cultural research, Executive function, Future-oriented cognition, Theory of mind, Child, Child, Preschool, Humans, Child Development, Cognition, East Asian People, Executive Function, Forecasting

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Elsevier BV