Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Yuko Munakata

Second Advisor

Jane Barker

Abstract

Young children are notorious for being inadequate at stopping their automatic actions during tasks that require inhibition (Munakata et al, 2011). The mechanism by which we are able to inhibit those automatic actions is regulated by cognitive control, which is a set of processes that allow us to maintain goal-relevant behavior over the course of a given task. Previous research has established that there is a marked transition during childhood in the form of cognitive control that is deployed to aid during a given task (Chatham, Frank, & Munakata 2009). Younger children are more in-the-moment thinkers while older children are able to anticipate a prompt and can therefore prepare an answer. One particular study looking children’s cognitive control was constructed to assess which type of rule reminder during a task helped younger children to perform successfully throughout a task (Barker & Munakata, in prep). This study found that cue-highlighting reminders throughout the task helped younger children with their performance. The present study seeks to investigate which category of reminder during a box-search task is most helpful to 3-4.5 year olds in inhibiting their automatic reactions, which is an extension of the Barker & Munakata task. Our findings indicate that children did worse in go-trial tasks than expected across all conditions. In the no-go trial tasks, which are designed to test inhibitory control, in contrast to our hypothesis, children performed worse in the reactive reminder condition than the proactive reminder condition. These results create interesting questions that can lead us to further research.

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