Understanding deliberate practice in preschool-aged children

Jac T. M Davis, Elizabeth Cullen, Thomas Suddendorf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Deliberate practice is essential for skill acquisition and expertise and may be a direct consequence of episodic foresight. However, little is known about how deliberate practice develops in children. We present two experiments testing children's ability to selectively practise a behaviour that was going to be useful in future and to reason about the role of practice in skill formation. Five-year-olds demonstrated an explicit understanding of deliberate practice both in selectively choosing to practise a future-relevant skill and in predicting skill change in others based on their practice. Four-year-olds showed some capacities, but failed to demonstrate consistent understanding of the relationship between practice and skill improvement. Children's understanding of this relationship was significantly related to their understanding of how information leads to knowledge, suggesting that both may draw on similar cognitive developmental changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-380
Number of pages20
JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • Episodic foresight
  • Mental time travel
  • Practice
  • Self-projection


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