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Abstract

The development of self-regulatory systems during the preschool years is accompanied by a dramatic increase in the ability to inhibit actions based on the directions of others. Several tasks have shown evidence of changes in self-regulation during the fourth year of life. The current cross-sectional study used a Simple Simon task, in which 33 3- to 4-year-old children were asked to respond to the command of one large toy animal but not to the command of another. Three important aspects of self-regulation were examined: the ability to inhibit action in the face of conflict, error detection/correction and the use of verbal and physical control strategies. The ability to inhibit a response in this task increased from 22% to 90% between 36 and 48 months of age. Post error slowing of Reaction Time (RT) indicative of error detection emerged at about the same age as successful inhibition. Physical rather than verbal self-regulation strategies were spontaneously employed by children to aid in the process of inhibition.
... On the one side, incorrect responses are informative as they mirror children's difficulties in finding a good balance between accuracy and speed. Typically, individuals' RTs for incorrect responses are substantially slower than for correct responses, with the difference between the two being more pronounced in children than in adults (Gerardi-Caulton, 2000;Jones et al., 2003;Simpson et al., 2012;Danovitch et al., 2019). On the other side, post-error responses tackle an individual's ability to monitor performance (Wessel, 2012;Chevalier, 2015;Roebers, 2017). ...
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The Heart and Flower task is used worldwide to measure age-dependent and individual differences in executive functions and/or cognitive control. The task reliably maps age and individual differences and these have consistently been found to be predictive for different aspects of school readiness and academic achievement. The idea has been put forward that there is a developmental shift in how children approach such a task. While 6-year-olds’ tend to adapt their task strategy ad hoc and reactively, older children increasingly engage in proactive cognitive control. Proactive cognitive control entails finding the right response speed without risking errors, always dependent on the cognitive conflict. The main goal of the present contribution was to examine children’s adjustments of response speed as a function of age and cognitive conflict by addressing RTs surrounding errors (i.e., errors and post-error trials). Data from a large sample with three age groups was used (N = 106 6-year-olds’ with a mean age of 6 years; 3 months; N = 108 7-year-olds’ with a mean age of 7 years; 4 months; N = 78 8-year-olds’ with a mean age of 8 years; 1 month). Response speed adjustments and the development thereof were targeted both across the Flower and Mixed block, respectively, and within these blocks focusing on errors and post-error slowing. Results revealed evidence for a developmental shift toward more efficient proactive cognitive control between 6 and 8 years of age, with the older but not the younger children strategically slowing down in the Mixed block and smoother post-error slowing. At the same time, we found that even the youngest age group has emerging proactive cognitive control skills at their disposal when addressing post-error slowing in the Flower block. The present study thus tracks the early roots of later efficient executive functions and cognitive control, contributes to a better understanding of how developmental progression in cognitive control is achieved, and highlights new avenues for research in this domain.
... Thus, the relation with cognitive flexibility skills still needs to be investigated since the tasks used in this study to assess them were either too simple (the nine-pieces classification task) or not completely appropriate (the local/global task). To further test the hypothesis of the relation between improvements after the SCI and cognitive flexibility, another study using a more complex classification task, such as that used in Veneziano & Bartoli (2018), as well as additional tasks such as Simple Simon (Jones et al., 2003) or the Dimensional Change Card Sort tasks (DCCS) (Zelazo, 2006) seems necessary. ...
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This work is based on previous studies showing that a short conversational intervention (SCI) focusing on the causes of the story events is effective in promoting the causal and mental content of children’s narratives. In these studies, however, not all the children improved their narratives after the SCI). The present study examined individual differences in the effectiveness of the SCI and investigated whether they were related to variation in the children’s executive function skills such as cognitive inhibition and flexibility. Eighty 6- to 8-year-old French-speaking children participated in the narrative task and executive function tasks. In the narrative task, they first told a story (NAR1) based on the Stone Story made up of five wordless pictures involving a misunderstanding between two characters; each child then participated in the SCI, and finally narrated the story a second time (NAR2). Then, the children were presented with executive function tasks. Cognitive inhibition was assessed by the Animal Stroop test, and cognitive flexibility was assessed by a three-criterion classification task and a local/global figure-matching task. Group results showed that the children expressed the misunderstanding between the characters in mental terms significantly more in their second than in their first narratives. Results also showed individual variation in the post-SCI improvements and indicated a significant positive relation between large improvements in the children’s post-SCI narrative and their inhibitory control skills. No significant relations were found in this study between large improvements and the two cognitive flexibility measures. These results suggest that narrative-promoting interventions should closely consider individual differences in the effectiveness of their procedures and envisage working not only on promoting narrative content but also on the skills needed to benefit from the interventions.
... Trial-by-trial adjustments are already evident in young children as they show longer response times after cognitive conflicts (Ambrosi et al., 2016;Grundy & Keyvani Chahi, 2017;Smulders et al., 2018). Similarly, detecting self-generated errors leads also to longer response times on subsequent trials (Brewer & Smith, 1989;Danielmeier & Ullsperger, 2011;Dubravac et al., 2020;Fairweather, 1978;Gupta et al., 2009;Jones et al., 2003;King et al., 2010;McDermott et al., 2007;Schroder et al., 2020;Smulders et al., 2016;Thaqi & Roebers, 2020). Post-error slowing has been attributed to motor inhibition (Marco-Pallarés et al., 2008;Ridderinkhof, 2002), inhibition of irrelevant information (King et al., 2010), delayed processing of sensory information (Buzzell et al., 2017;Laming, 1979), attentional orienting towards the source of the error (Notebaert et al., 2009), and cognitive control adjustments following error detection (Botvinick et al., 2001). ...
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Detecting an error signals the need for increased cognitive control and behavioural adjustments. Considerable development in performance monitoring and cognitive control is evidenced by lower error rates and faster response times in multi-trial executive function tasks with age. Besides these quantitative changes, we were interested in whether qualitative changes in balancing accuracy and speed contribute to developmental progression during elementary school years. We conducted two studies investigating the temporal and developmental trajectories of post-error slowing in three prominent cognitive conflict tasks (Stroop, Simon, and flanker). We instructed children (8-, 10-, and 12-year-old) and adults to respond as fast and as accurately as possible and measured their response times on four trials after correct and incorrect responses to a cognitive conflict. Results revealed that all age groups had longer response times on post-error versus post-correct trials, reflecting post-error slowing. Critically, slowing on the first post-error trial declined with age, suggesting an age-related reduction in the orienting response towards errors. This age effect diminished on subsequent trials, suggesting more fine-tuned cognitive control adjustments with age. Overall, the consistent pattern across tasks suggests an age-related change from a relatively strong orienting response to more balanced cognitive control adaptations.
... Developmental improvements in the ability to monitor and adjust behavior when necessary have consistently been observed in typically developing children (e.g., Carlson, 2005;Cragg & Nation, 2008;Diamond, 2013;Hughes & Ensor, 2007;Jones, Rothbart, & Posner, 2003). The most prominent advancements in cognitive control that are observed once children are in school-age concern quantitative changes, that is, a continuously increasing speed of responding in multiple-trial tasks (Diamond, 2002). ...
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Background: Despite developmental progression in the ability to control behavior in service of goals during kindergarten period, little is known about cognitive control mechanisms in later childhood and adolescence. Method: The present study provides detailed insights into children's and adolescents' ability to flexibly and efficiently adapt their speed of responding in the context of a multiple-trial spatial conflict task. Based on the dual mechanisms of cognitive control, variability in response times, response consistency, trial-by trial adjustments surrounding errors, and developmental differences thereof were investigated. Results: Results showed that individuals become more reliable, more efficient, better adjusted, and thus of overall better in cognitive control with increasing age. Sequential adjustments of response times revealed that the participating 4 th graders responded too fast when the task was running smoothly and slowed down too strongly after committing an error in comparison to 6 th and 8 th graders. Conclusion: The results suggest that the fine-tuning of speeded responses are key mechanisms for developmental progression in cognitive control. Furthermore, the current study attempts to increase researcher's and practitioners' awareness that detailed analysis of cognitive control processes in typically developing children and adolescents is needed for a better understanding when evaluating these processes in individuals with deviant cognitive development.
... In the Go/NoGo task, response execution becomes faster, whereas correct detection (e.g., Go accuracy) and response inhibition (e.g., NoGo accuracy and false alarms) increase with age (Grammer et al., 2014;Johnstone et al., 2005Johnstone et al., , 2007Jonkman, 2006;Kim et al., 2007;Lamm et al., 2006;Torpey et al., 2012;Wiersema et al., 2007). This evidence is in line with data from studies using other conflict-inducing tasks, which indicate that childhood constitutes an important period for the development of CC Bedard et al., 2002;Checa et al., 2014;Davies et al., 2004;Jones et al., 2003). Changes in behavioral performance are accompanied by changes in brain activity, as suggested by the linear change in the amplitude of the N2 (i.e., on NoGo or high conflict trials) and the ERN from childhood to adolescence (Hoyniak, 2017;Lo, 2018). ...
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Different interventions have shown effectiveness in modifying cognitive performance on cognitive control demanding tasks in children from poor homes. However, little is known about the influence of cognitive interventions on children’s brain functioning and how individual variability modulates the impact of those interventions. In the present study, we examined the impact of two individualized cognitive training interventions on cognitive performance and neural activity in preschoolers from poor homes. Participants were classified based on their basal performance (i.e., high and low performers) in an inhibitory control task and then separated into intervention and control groups within each performance level. The control groups completed an intervention with three activities without cognitive control demands. The intervention groups performed three training activities with increased cognitive demands adjusted according to their cognitive baseline performance. Children were trained weekly for 12 weeks and tested before and after the intervention, at kindergarten, using EEG recordings during a Go/NoGo task performance. Results revealed significant training effects on midfrontal neural activity associated with conflict processing in both intervention groups. Low performers exhibited changes on preresponse conflict processing (i.e., N2). However, the high-performing group had larger training effects on both conflict-related activity (i.e., N2, ERN, and theta power) and fluid intelligence. These results suggest that the consideration of individual differences in the design of interventions could contribute to the adaptation of training demands and that the use of mobile EEG technology could be useful to assess eventual neural markers in more ecological contexts.
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the cognitive impacts of tablet use on young children’s inhibitory control and error monitoring. A total of 70 children (35 boys) aged 3.5 to 5 years completed an age-appropriate go/no-go task and were then randomly assigned to a technology group or a comparison group. In the technology group, children completed a cooking task on a tablet for 15 min. In the comparison group, children completed a similarly structured cooking task with toys for the same length of time. Children then completed the go/no-go task again. Compared with children in the comparison group, children in the technology group demonstrated poorer inhibitory control as evidenced by lower accuracy on no-go trials after the cooking task. However, both groups displayed post-error reaction time slowing. Collectively, these results suggest that brief tablet use can impose selective impairment on young children’s cognitive abilities for a short period of time following use.
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