Human cognitive neuroscience seminar

Speaker: Aurélien Frick (PhD Candidate in Psychology, The University of Edinburgh)

Title: Voluntary task switching in children: Switching more to reduce the cost of task selection

Abstract: Emerging cognitive control supports increasingly efficient goal-directed behaviours and predicts later life outcomes. With age, children are increasingly expected to decide autonomously which goals to attain with little external aid. However, little is known about how children engage cognitive control in such a self-directed fashion. In this talk, I will present how we have examined self-directed control development by adapting the voluntary task switching paradigm—the gold standard measure of this control form in adults—for use with 5-6 year-old and 9-10 year-old children. In this task, participants are asked to voluntary switch back and forth between two tasks with the instructions to perform them equally often and in a random manner. Results indicated that younger children seemingly performed the task successfully, displaying a probability of switch, also referred as to p(switch), similar to older children and young adults. Importantly, p(switch) was lower when time preparation was short, indicating that proactive control plays a key role when it comes to deciding between repeating trials or switching trials. However, younger children struggled more with task selection than older children and adults. Younger children were less likely to perform the two tasks equally often and they relied more on non-random strategies to reduce the cost of task selection, even if the strategy involved switching more often. I will discuss these results, arguing task selection is the main difficulty in self-directed cognitive control development rather than switching per se.


The seminars are organised by the Human Cognitive Neuroscience research group. For further information, or if you would like to join the e-mail list for these seminars, please email Andreea Stamate or Carolane Hélin.

Human cognitive neuroscience

Andreea Stamate

Carolane Hélin

Mar 20 2019 -

Human cognitive neuroscience seminar

2019-03-20: Voluntary task switching in children: Switching more to reduce the cost of task selection

Lecture Theatre F21, Psychology Building, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ