Developmental progression in children’s and adolescents’ cognitive control

Qendresa Thaqi, Claudia Roebers


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 4th graders responded too fast when the task was running smoothly and slowed down too strongly after committing an error in comparison to 6th and 8th 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.

Keywords: Cognitive Control; Error-Monitoring; Typical Development

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