Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Yuko Munakata

Abstract

The ability to suppress inappropriate actions at a given time is known as response inhibition. Previous research suggests that there are multiple mechanisms supporting inhibition: a “global stopping” mechanism may be used to suppress all behavior and a “selective stopping” mechanism may be used to suppress specific actions while allowing for the concurrent execution of desired actions. These mechanisms of response inhibition are well understood in adults; however, these mechanisms have not been thoroughly examined in children. In order to assess response inhibition in 5 and 6 year olds, we developed a child adapted version of a measure of response inhibition known as the stop signal task. We hypothesized that some 5 and 6 year old children will reproduce basic effects of selective vs. global stopping mechanisms previously observed in adults while other children may show an under-developed pattern. We found that children do not utilize the same response inhibition mechanism as adults. We also observed that attention deployment, rather than the stopping pathways, may play a larger role in children’s ability to inhibit their actions.

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