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Primed to be inflexible: the influence of set size on cognitive flexibility during childhood.

Fitzgibbon L, Cragg L, Carroll DJ - Front Psychol (2014)

Bottom Line: This paper also offers insights into the mechanism by which this effect comes about.These findings make important theoretical and practical contributions to the executive function literature: theoretically, they show that the basic features of a task exert a significant influence on children's ability to flexibly shift between tasks through bottom-up priming effects.These findings also have applications in education, where they have the potential to inform teaching in key areas where cognitive flexibility is required, such as mathematics and literacy.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield Sheffield, UK.

ABSTRACT
One of the hallmarks of human cognition is cognitive flexibility, the ability to adapt thoughts and behaviors according to changing task demands. Previous research has suggested that the number of different exemplars that must be processed within a task (the set size) can influence an individual's ability to switch flexibly between different tasks. This paper provides evidence that when tasks have a small set size, children's cognitive flexibility is impaired compared to when tasks have a large set size. This paper also offers insights into the mechanism by which this effect comes about. Understanding how set size interacts with task-switching informs the debate regarding the relative contributions of bottom-up priming and top-down control processes in the development of cognitive flexibility. We tested two accounts for the relationship between set size and cognitive flexibility: the (bottom-up) Stimulus-Task Priming account and the (top-down) Rule Representation account. Our findings offered support for the Stimulus-Task Priming account, but not for the Rule Representation account. They suggest that children are susceptible to bottom-up priming caused by stimulus repetition, and that this priming can impair their ability to switch between tasks. These findings make important theoretical and practical contributions to the executive function literature: theoretically, they show that the basic features of a task exert a significant influence on children's ability to flexibly shift between tasks through bottom-up priming effects. Practically, they suggest that children's cognitive flexibility may have been underestimated relative to adults', as paradigms used with children typically have a smaller set size than those used with adults. These findings also have applications in education, where they have the potential to inform teaching in key areas where cognitive flexibility is required, such as mathematics and literacy.

No MeSH data available.


Trial procedure. The prompt stimulus (top) matches one response stimulus (bottom left) according to its color and the other response stimulus (bottom right) according to its shape. An auditory cue (“color” or “shape”) is onset concurrently with the prompt stimulus.
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Figure 1: Trial procedure. The prompt stimulus (top) matches one response stimulus (bottom left) according to its color and the other response stimulus (bottom right) according to its shape. An auditory cue (“color” or “shape”) is onset concurrently with the prompt stimulus.

Mentions: A graphical representation of the trial procedure can be found in Figure 1. Each trial began with a white screen showing a black outline of a rectangle (the prompt box) located at the top center of the screen. After a delay of 1000 ms, the prompt stimulus appeared in the prompt box, together with an auditory cue (a female voice saying “color” or “shape,” as appropriate for that trial). After a further delay of 500 ms, two response stimuli appeared in the bottom left and right corners of the screen. One response stimulus matched the prompt on the color dimension, and the other response stimulus matched the prompt on the shape dimension. Neither response stimulus ever matched the prompt stimulus on both dimensions. All stimuli remained on the screen until children responded. Testing lasted approximately 15 min.


Primed to be inflexible: the influence of set size on cognitive flexibility during childhood.

Fitzgibbon L, Cragg L, Carroll DJ - Front Psychol (2014)

Trial procedure. The prompt stimulus (top) matches one response stimulus (bottom left) according to its color and the other response stimulus (bottom right) according to its shape. An auditory cue (“color” or “shape”) is onset concurrently with the prompt stimulus.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3921553&req=5

Figure 1: Trial procedure. The prompt stimulus (top) matches one response stimulus (bottom left) according to its color and the other response stimulus (bottom right) according to its shape. An auditory cue (“color” or “shape”) is onset concurrently with the prompt stimulus.
Mentions: A graphical representation of the trial procedure can be found in Figure 1. Each trial began with a white screen showing a black outline of a rectangle (the prompt box) located at the top center of the screen. After a delay of 1000 ms, the prompt stimulus appeared in the prompt box, together with an auditory cue (a female voice saying “color” or “shape,” as appropriate for that trial). After a further delay of 500 ms, two response stimuli appeared in the bottom left and right corners of the screen. One response stimulus matched the prompt on the color dimension, and the other response stimulus matched the prompt on the shape dimension. Neither response stimulus ever matched the prompt stimulus on both dimensions. All stimuli remained on the screen until children responded. Testing lasted approximately 15 min.

Bottom Line: This paper also offers insights into the mechanism by which this effect comes about.These findings make important theoretical and practical contributions to the executive function literature: theoretically, they show that the basic features of a task exert a significant influence on children's ability to flexibly shift between tasks through bottom-up priming effects.These findings also have applications in education, where they have the potential to inform teaching in key areas where cognitive flexibility is required, such as mathematics and literacy.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield Sheffield, UK.

ABSTRACT
One of the hallmarks of human cognition is cognitive flexibility, the ability to adapt thoughts and behaviors according to changing task demands. Previous research has suggested that the number of different exemplars that must be processed within a task (the set size) can influence an individual's ability to switch flexibly between different tasks. This paper provides evidence that when tasks have a small set size, children's cognitive flexibility is impaired compared to when tasks have a large set size. This paper also offers insights into the mechanism by which this effect comes about. Understanding how set size interacts with task-switching informs the debate regarding the relative contributions of bottom-up priming and top-down control processes in the development of cognitive flexibility. We tested two accounts for the relationship between set size and cognitive flexibility: the (bottom-up) Stimulus-Task Priming account and the (top-down) Rule Representation account. Our findings offered support for the Stimulus-Task Priming account, but not for the Rule Representation account. They suggest that children are susceptible to bottom-up priming caused by stimulus repetition, and that this priming can impair their ability to switch between tasks. These findings make important theoretical and practical contributions to the executive function literature: theoretically, they show that the basic features of a task exert a significant influence on children's ability to flexibly shift between tasks through bottom-up priming effects. Practically, they suggest that children's cognitive flexibility may have been underestimated relative to adults', as paradigms used with children typically have a smaller set size than those used with adults. These findings also have applications in education, where they have the potential to inform teaching in key areas where cognitive flexibility is required, such as mathematics and literacy.

No MeSH data available.