Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Yuko Munakata

Second Advisor

Dr. Lew Harvey

Third Advisor

Dr. Johanna Maes

Abstract

Young children show limitations in inhibitory control, specifically having significant difficulty resisting automatic or impulsive actions. Imposing a delay before children can act has been shown to improve children’s performance on some inhibitory control tasks but not others. In a Stroop task, where children are instructed to say ‘day’ when shown a picture of a moon and stars, and to say ‘night’ when shown a picture of a sun, experimenter-imposed delays have been shown to improve children’s performance. In contrast, in a box-search task, where children search for stickers in boxes on the basis of go-and no-go cues, experimenter-imposed delays have not been shown to improve performance in three-year-olds when de-confounded from other task-relevant reminders. This study investigated whether delays help when children can see the relevant stimulus during the delay (as in prior day-night Stroop studies, but not in box-search studies), which may allow them to formulate a correct, non-prepotent response. 3.5 to 4.99 year-old children (N=80 out of a planned 105) completed one of three day-night Stroop conditions in a museum environment: a Control No Delay condition, a Visible-Delay condition, in which the stimulus card was visible across the delay period, and an Obscured-Delay condition, where the card was briefly shown to the child, then obscured across the delay. Performance was similar across all three conditions, suggesting that benefits from delays on children’s inhibitory control may be specific to quiet, non-distracting environments like a controlled laboratory. Future work should test these same three conditions to investigate if delays help when children can see the stimulus during the delay in a controlled lab environment.

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