Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Dr. Yuko Munakata

Abstract

How might the time that children spend in structured versus unstructured activities predict their executive function (EF), the set of control processes that govern thoughts and actions? Although extant research suggests that activities requiring self-directed practice improve child EF, no studies have examined how differences in everyday behaviors relate to EF. The present study considers how differences in executive functions in 6 and 7 year olds correlate with child time spent in structured and unstructured activities. Typical child activities were assessed using a weekly activity survey given to parents. Results indicate that the percentage of time children spent in unstructured activities predicted performance on the Verbal Fluency task, a measure of endogenous control, but not the AX-CPT, a measure of proactive control. These findings provide initial support for the hypothesis that the time children spend in unstructured activities may be associated with the development of self-directed behavior and contribute to developing endogenous control. This study has implications on future work on the development of executive functions and the importance of specific activities in childhood.

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