Conflict processing in kindergarten children: New evidence from distribution analyses reveals the dynamics of incorrect response activation and suppression


  • Ambrosi Solène
  • Servant Mathieu
  • Blaye Agnès
  • Burle Boris


  • Development preschooler conflict tasks Distribution analysis conditional accuracy function

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The development of cognitive control is known to follow a long and protracted development. However, whether interference effect in conflict tasks in children would entail the same core processes as in adults, namely an automatic activation of incorrect response and its subsequent suppression, remains an open question. We applied distributional analyses to reaction times and accuracy of 5-to 6-year-old children performing three conflict tasks (flanker, Simon and Stroop) in a within-participants design. This revealed both strong commonalities and differences between children and adults. As in adults, fast responses were more error-prone than slow ones on incompatible trials, indicating a fast "automatic" activation of the incorrect response. In addition, the strength of this activation differed across tasks, following a pattern similar to adults. Moreover, modeling the data with a Drift Diffusion Model adapted for Conflict tasks allowed to better assess the origin of the typical slowing down observed in children. Besides showing that advanced distribution analyses can be successfully applied to children, the present results support the notion that interference effects in 5-to 6-year-olds are driven by mechanisms very similar to the ones at play in adults but with different time courses.

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