Research has shown that the ability of children to delay gratification can predict positive outcomes later in life. Research in adults has shown that cueing individuals to think about themselves in the future (episodic future thinking) can improve performance on delay of gratification tasks. However, this has not been effective with children.
In fact, the existing literature suggests that children perform worse on such tasks when cued to think about the future. My research attempts to understand why this is the case. Is this due to underdeveloped future thinking skills in children? Or is future thinking too taxing on the child’s underdeveloped executive functioning resources? This PhD attempts to answer this question by examining the relationship between future thinking skills, executive functioning, and delay of gratification.
What is your ideal Research outcome?
If we can gain an understanding of the cognitive mechanisms that predict better delay of gratification, then we can use this to inform interventions to improve delay of gratification in children. In an ideal world, my research would result in the development of such interventions, which can be easily implemented by classroom teachers.
Professor Teresa McCormack and Dr. Agnieszka Graham
Why did you choose this PhD and why at Queen's?
I chose this PhD as I have a strong interest in executive function and development. I am particularly interested in individual differences in executive functioning and how they contribute to goal attainment and predict achievement in various domains. I was aware that Queen’s had a good reputation for psychology and a large developmental psychology department. I approached my current supervisors as they had very similar research interests to myself and I was very impressed by their expertise and their willingness to support my proposal.
How have you been supported at Queen's?
I have had great support from my supervisors. When I first arrived, they were very forthcoming with advice about the university and life in Belfast which helped me to settle in. We have regular meetings where we plan the next steps of my project and I have the opportunity to ask questions and seek their valuable advice. I have also been supported by others within the psychology and particularly within the developmental department. Everyone is very approachable and willing to share advice and ideas.
In what ways have you developed at Queen's?
I have only been here a short time, but I have already begun to develop new skills such as using new software for analysing data and programming experiments.
Can you describe the postgraduate community in the School and at Queen's?
I have found the postgraduate community to be very friendly and welcoming. There is a warm and sociable atmosphere and there is always someone to chat to, whether about research or life in general!
Where do you hope your PhD will lead?
I enjoy both teaching and research so I hope my PhD will set me up for a career in academia.
Anything else you would like to add or advise to new PGR students?
I would say be prepared to learn new skills and take on new challenges. Also, be prepared to be flexible and adaptive to change. I have only really started my PhD but as I learn about new techniques and ideas, my research is starting to take a slightly different direction to what I had expected.
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