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    Development of routine and supervisory processes in sequential action control

    Carteron, Aude Marie (2022) Development of routine and supervisory processes in sequential action control. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    The sequential actions that children and adults perform regularly if not daily (e.g., preparing for and going to school/work, preparing meals, and so on) are often un-der routine control in that they appear not to require overt attention. The study of routine action control in adults has benefited from influential theories, such as the Norman and Shallice’s (1986) dual-systems theory, supported by comprehensive computational models. Drawing on the latter theory, and comparing it with other existing accounts of sequential action selection, this thesis aims at improving our understanding of the development of routine action control throughout the school-age years. It investigates how children control complex action sequences, at several levels, and with the involvement of various supervisory functions (including inhibitory control and monitoring functions). It furthermore explores the interaction between the two hypothesised action control systems in children under the lens of the dual-systems theory, but also under the lens of the so-called model-free and model-based types of reinforcement learning. This is done by designing child-friendly tasks, developing a computational model, and proposing novel analysis methods for kinematics data. The findings in this thesis support the view that children use two modes of control which may follow different developmental trajectories, with a supervisory system following a more protracted development. The results furthermore suggest that the development of inhibitory control throughout the school-age years might reduce children’s propensity to interferences from environmental distractors, and might improve their abilities to select the appropriate action in an ambiguous context (e.g., when an action needs to be related more strongly to the overarching goal than to the preceding’s action) or under increased cognitive load. In conclusion, this thesis shows that by 5 or 6 years old, children readily use conjointly two modes of action control and are able to control action sequences in a routinised fashion, yet the supervisory mode of control seems to substantially improve throughout mid-childhood. It furthermore brings evidence for the fact that changes in executive functions underlie improvements in sequential action control with age.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 19 May 2022 13:44
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:34


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