What will you want tomorrow? Children-But not adults- mis-predict another person's future desires



Martin-Ordas G & Atance CM (2021) What will you want tomorrow? Children-But not adults- mis-predict another person's future desires. PLOS ONE, 16 (11), Art. No.: e0259159.

Young children have difficulty predicting a future physiological state that conflicts with their current state. This finding is explained by the fact that children are biased by their current state (e.g., thirsty and desiring water) and thus have difficulty imagining themselves in a different state (e.g., not thirsty and desiring pretzels) “tomorrow,” for example. Another potential explanation that we explore here is that young children have difficulty understanding how physiological states, like thirst, fluctuate over time. We asked 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds (Experiment 1) and adults (Experiment 2) to predict what a thirsty Experimenter–who preferred crisps to water—would want (“water” or “crisps”) “right now” and “tomorrow.” Only adults correctly predicted someone else’s future desires when this person’s future and current desires conflicted. In contrast, both adults and children in the control groups (in which the Experimenter was not thirsty) had no difficulty predicting that the Experimenter would want crisps “right now” and “tomorrow.” Our findings suggest that children’s difficulty predicting future desires cannot solely be attributed to their being biased by their current state since the children in our study were, themselves, not thirsty. We discuss our results in the context of children’s difficulty understanding fluctuations in physiological states.


PLOS ONE: Volume 16, Issue 11

Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online03/11/2021
Date accepted by journal13/10/2021
PublisherPublic Library of Science (PLoS)

People (1)


Dr Gema Martin-Ordas

Dr Gema Martin-Ordas

Senior Lecturer, Psychology