Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Yuko Munakata

Second Advisor

Akira Miyake

Third Advisor

Tim Curran


Children notoriously struggle to inhibit incorrect, prepotent responses, but often improve if a delay is introduced before they can respond. Children may use delays to actively compute correct answers (Diamond et al., 2002). Alternatively, delays may improve child performance by allowing prepotent responses to passively dissipate (Simpson et al., 2012). A third, untested account posits that improvements previously attributed to delays may instead reflect the influence of additional instructions and reminders in delay conditions. The present study tests predictions arising from each account via a go/no-go box search task. Three-year-olds opened boxes to find stickers or left them shut, based on go and no-go cues. Each child completed one of four conditions crossing cue highlighting (hidden placement of the cue vs. visible placement of the cue and additional cue reminders) with delay period (responses allowed immediately versus responses allowed only after a delay). Additional instructions and reminders, rather than delays per se, drove improvements in child response inhibition, challenging both active computation and passive dissipation accounts.