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    Task switching costs in preschool children and adults

    Peng, A. and Kirkham, Natasha Z. and Mareschal, Denis (2018) Task switching costs in preschool children and adults. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 172 , pp. 59-72. ISSN 0022-0965.

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    Past research investigating cognitive flexibility has shown that preschool children make many perseverative errors in tasks that require switching between different sets of rules. However, this inflexibility may not necessary hold with easier tasks. The current study investigates the developmental differences in cognitive flexibility using a task-switching procedure that compares reaction times and accuracy in 4- to 6-year-olds to those of adults. The experiment involved simple target detection tasks, and was intentionally designed in a way that the stimulus and response conflicts were minimal, together with a long preparation window. Global mixing costs (performance costs when multiple tasks are relevant in a context), and local switch costs (performance costs due to switching to an alternative task) are typically thought to engage endogenous control processes. If this is the case, we should observe developmental differences with both these costs. Our results show, however, that when the accuracy was good, there were no age differences in cognitive flexibility between children and adults (i.e. the ability to manage multiple tasks and to switch between tasks). Even though preschool children had slower reaction times and were less accurate, the mixing and switch costs associated with task-switching were not reliably larger for preschool children. Preschool children did, however, show more commission errors and greater response repetition effects than adults, which may reflect differences in inhibitory control.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2018 12:58
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:39


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