The dynamics of interference control across childhood and adolescence: Distribution analyses in three conflict tasks and ten age groups.


  • Ambrosi Solène
  • Śmigasiewicz Kamila
  • Burle Boris
  • Blaye Agnès


  • Interference control
  • Inhibition
  • Conflict tasks
  • Distributional analyses

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Interference control is central to cognitive control and, more generally, to many aspects of development. Despite its importance, the understanding of the processes underlying mean interference effects across development is still limited. When measured through conflict tasks, mean interference effects reflect both the strength of the initial automatic incorrect response activation by the irrelevant stimulus dimension and the capacity to subsequently suppress this tendency and/or activate the correct response. To investigate the development of interference control, we focused on the time course of these activation and/or suppression processes studied in 360 children distributed in 10 age groups (from 5 to 14 years of age) and 36 adults. Each participant performed the three mostly used conflict tasks (Simon, flanker, and Stroop) designed to be sensitive across the whole age range. Performances were analyzed using distribution analyses of accuracy and response times. Conditional accuracy functions highlighted conflict-dependent developmental changes in the time course of the initial incorrect response capture and later controlled correct response activation: these results revealed a mature pattern for Simon from 5 years onwards (the easiest task as assessed by fastest RT and highest accuracy), late maturation in Stroop (the most difficult task), intermediate in flanker. In contrast, despite the increased speed of responses across the age range, the shape of correct response distributions did not change with age, leaving open the maturation of suppression processes. Results are discussed with respect to the interest of the methodology used and debates on the interpretation of the dynamics at hand. Children and teenagers are more than ever surrounded by huge amounts of information that can easily distract them from their current goals (listening to the teacher instead of reading the last posts on a social network; keeping in mind the question they have to address in their presentation while searching on the internet instead of browsing attractive web-sites.. .). Interference control that allows for acting in a goal-directed manner without getting distracted by poten

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