Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Dr. Yuko Munakata

Second Advisor

Laura Michaelson

Abstract

In childhood, the ability to exhibit self-control, or to adapt behavior to promote goal achievement, is an essential predictor for general life outcomes. Children with strong control abilities develop into adults who are more successful in domains such as health, wealth and academic achievement. One aspect of self-control is the ability to resist temptation in the face of attractive distractions. For this reason, interventions that target improvements in distraction avoidance in young, preschool-aged children may improve self-control. The present study tested the effectiveness of implementation intentions (IIs), or if-then plans used to facilitate goal achievement (Gollwitzer, 1999), to improve the performance on a categorization task by increasing the ability to resist distraction in school-aged and preschool-aged children. Additionally, by measuring the relationship between individual differences in categorization task performance and individual differences in proactive control, the cognitive control mechanisms supporting the effectiveness of IIs were tested. We found no evidence that IIs improved task performance in either age group; thus, the mechanisms underlying IIs remain unresolved. Future projects will be necessary for making strong conclusions about the effectiveness of II interventions in young children and the potential cognitive control mechanisms on which IIs operate.

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