9781118956656

The Emergent Executive A Dynamic Field Theory of the Development of Executive Function

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  • ISBN13:

    9781118956656

  • ISBN10:

    1118956656

  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2014-06-09
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
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Summary

Executive function (EF) is a central aspect of cognition that undergoes significant changes in early childhood. Changes in EF in early childhood are robustly predictive of academic achievement and general quality of life measures later in adulthood. We present a dynamic neural field (DNF) model that provides a process-based account of behavior and developmental change in a key task used to probe the early development of executive function—the Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS) task. In the DCCS, children must flexibly switch from sorting cards either by shape or color to sorting by the other dimension. Typically, 3-year-olds, but not 5-year-olds, lack the flexibility to do so and perseverate on the first set of rules when instructed to switch. Using the DNF model, we demonstrate how rule-use and behavioral flexibility come about through a form of dimensional attention. Further, developmental change is captured by increasing the robustness and precision of dimensional attention. Note that although this enables the model to effectively switch tasks, the dimensional attention system does not “know” the details of task-specific performance. Rather, correct performance emerges as a property of system-wide interactions. We show how this captures children’s behavior in quantitative detail across 14 versions of the DCCS task. Moreover, we successfully test a set of novel predictions with 3-year-old children from a version of the task not explained by other theories.

Author Biography

Aaron T. Buss is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Tennessee. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 2013. He is the recipient of the 2009 Simon Award and the 2013 Lewis Award from the University of Iowa.

John P. Spencer is a Professor of Psychology at The University of Iowa, the current director of the CHILDS Facility (CHild Imaging Laboratory in Developmental Science) and the founding Director of the Delta Center (Development and Learning from Theory to Application). He received a Sc.B. with Honors from Brown University in 1991 and a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Indiana University in 1998. He is the recipient of the Irving J. Saltzman and the J.R. Kantor Graduate Awards from Indiana University, the 2003 Early Research Contributions Award from the Society for Research in Child Development, and the 2006 Robert L. Fantz Memorial Award from the American Psychological Foundation.

Sandra A. Wiebe (Ph.D., University of Minnesota) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Alberta. Her research uses behavioral and electrophysiological methods to examine the development of children’s ability to regulate their thoughts, actions, and emotions in the early years, and the impact of environmental and genetic factors on these developing skills.

Dr. J. Bruce Morton is an Associate Professor of Psychology and core faculty member of the Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario. His research focuses on inter-individual and developmental variability in cognitive control early in life.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS

ABSTRACT VII

I. THE EMERGENCE OF EXECUTIVE FUNCTION 1

II. A CASE STUDY OF THE DCCS TASK 12

III. DYNAMIC FIELD THEORY 26

IV. QUANTITATIVE FITS OF CORE FINDINGS IN THE DCCS LITERATURE 45

V. EMPIRICAL TEST OF THE DNF MODEL: THE ROLE OF SPACE 57

VI. BEYOND SPACE: THE ROLE OF FEATURE-SALIENCY AND ATTENTIONAL-WEIGHTS 64

VII. GENERAL DISCUSSION 72

REFERENCES 83

APPENDIX 96

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 103

COMMENTARY

MODELING THE EMERGENT EXECUTIVE: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE STRUCTURE AND DEVELOPMENT OF EXECUTIVE FUNCTION Sandra A.Wiebe 104

DYNAMIC FIELD THEORY AND EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS: LENDING EXPLANATION TO CURRENT THEORIES OF DEVELOPMENT J. Bruce Morton 116

CONTRIBUTORS 125

STATEMENT OF EDITORIAL POLICY 126

SUBJECT INDEX 128

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