Response inhibition and adaptations to response conflict in 6- to 8-year-old children: Evidence from the Simon effect
Several studies have shown that the Simon effect, which is the advantage of spatial correspondence between stimulus and response locations when the stimulus location is task-irrelevant, decreases with increasing response times and is affected by preceding-trial correspondence. These modulations suggest the existence of control mechanisms that adapt our behavior to current goals by responding to the conflict experienced within a trial and by preventing the recurrence of a conflict in the subsequent trial. The aim of the present study was to assess whether these control mechanisms, which are well consolidated in adults and in children older than 8 years of age, are present in children between 6 and 8 years old. To this end, we tested 32 first-grade (6–7 years) and 34 second-grade (7–8 years) children on a Simon task in which correspondence sequence was manipulated on a trial-by-trial basis. The Simon effect was larger for first- than for second-graders and decreased with increasing response times only in second-graders. Crucially, for both groups, the effect was reduced when the preceding trial was noncorresponding, and the reductions were comparable for the two groups, indicating that trial-by-trial control mechanisms are already present in first-grade children and may be dissociated from within-trial control adjustments.
KeywordsCognitive control Response inhibition Conflict-driven adaptations Correspondence sequence Simon effect
This work was supported by a grant from the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (Grant No. 2008ZN5J5S) to S.R. and C.I. We thank Chiara Annunziata and Anna Lodesani for helping with the data collection, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.
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