Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Dr. Yuko Munakata

Second Advisor

Dr. Eliana Colunga

Third Advisor

Dr. Rolf Norgaard

Abstract

Children often show significant limitations in their inhibitory control (IC), or ability to stop habitual, automatic actions. Although interventions to improve early IC are of great interest, the mechanisms supporting control in young children are poorly understood. Two manipulations to improve IC have shown some promise: experimenter-imposed delays, and task-relevant reminders. In the box-search task, where 3-year-olds learn to open boxes to find stickers on the basis of go and no-go cues, task-relevant reminders, rather than delays, have been shown to improve performance. In the more difficult day-night Stroop task, where children are taught to respond ‘day’ to a picture of a moon and stars, and ‘night’ to a picture of a sun, delays do seem to improve performance, but have previously been combined with task-relevant information. In Study 1, we tested whether box-search reminders are most effective when they are provided immediately before children respond, as emphasized by accounts suggesting that young children can successfully engage control reactively before they can engage it proactively. We found that when provided in isolation, neither in-the-moment reminders nor pre-task reminders aided 3-year-old’s IC relative to a control, no-reminder condition. This suggests that simply drawing young children’s attention to the cue before they respond may be insufficient to support reactive retrieval of task-relevant information. In Study 2, we found that experimenter-imposed delays benefitted 4-year-olds IC in the day-night Stroop task even when deconfounded from reminders and encouragement. These findings suggest delays may be more effective in tasks with greater control demands, consistent with accounts emphasizing roles for passive dissipation of the prepotent stimulus and active computation of correct responses.

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