The primary goal of this research is to advance understanding of the development of cognitive flexibility. Children can show stunning failures to flexibly adapt their behavior to changing circumstances. For example, children often perseverate, repeating prior behaviors when they are no longer appropriate, even in the face of repeated and explicit information to change course. In contrast, mature humans show unique abilities to flexibly adapt their behavior to changing circumstances, even in the absence of explicit information about how or when to do so. Much of the work in the developmental literature has focused on one aspect of this process - children's increasing abilities to actively maintain goals that are provided for them. While this work has led to a rich understanding of the mechanisms supporting children's flexible behaviors, it has largely failed to address two critical transitions in development. First, prior to children's gradual improvements in proactive maintenance of goal representations, they show a qualitatively different, reactive, form of cognitive control, retrieving goals only as they are needed in the moment. Second, even after children excel at maintaining goals that are provided for them to guide exogenous (externally-cued) flexibility, they show continued limitations and developments in endogenous (internally-driven) flexibility, when they must select goals for themselves. The proposed research builds on a unified, biologically-based computational modeling framework to investigate developments in these diverse components of flexibility, through parallel studies with children and neural network models. This framework focuses on the role of active, abstract knowledge representations in driving transitions from reactive to proactive control, and from exogenous to endogenous control. This work will advance explicit mechanistic models of how children develop, maintain, and update representations in the service of flex- ible behavior, and will inform applications for improving flexibility - from infant search to children's rule use to increasing abilities to drive flexible behavior on one's own.

Public Health Relevance

Limitations in cognitive flexibility are particularly salient early in development, late in aging, and in a wide variety of psychopathologies. They can lead to serious impairments in learning, decision-making, and action. Understanding the basis for such limitations and subsequent developments in cognitive flexibility is thus a central goal for basic science, mental health, and education.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01HD037163-16
Application #
8605047
Study Section
Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
Program Officer
Freund, Lisa S
Project Start
1998-12-15
Project End
2015-02-28
Budget Start
2014-03-01
Budget End
2015-02-28
Support Year
16
Fiscal Year
2014
Total Cost
$287,877
Indirect Cost
$94,255
Name
University of Colorado at Boulder
Department
Psychology
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
007431505
City
Boulder
State
CO
Country
United States
Zip Code
80309
Blackwell, Katharine A; Chatham, Christopher H; Wiseheart, Melody et al. (2014) A developmental window into trade-offs in executive function: the case of task switching versus response inhibition in 6-year-olds. Neuropsychologia 62:356-64
Blackwell, Katharine A; Munakata, Yuko (2014) Costs and benefits linked to developments in cognitive control. Dev Sci 17:203-11
Chevalier, Nicolas; Chatham, Christopher H; Munakata, Yuko (2014) The practice of going helps children to stop: the importance of context monitoring in inhibitory control. J Exp Psychol Gen 143:959-65
Snyder, Hannah R; Munakata, Yuko (2013) So many options, so little control: abstract representations can reduce selection demands to increase children's self-directed flexibility. J Exp Child Psychol 116:659-73
Cepeda, Nicholas J; Blackwell, Katharine A; Munakata, Yuko (2013) Speed isn't everything: complex processing speed measures mask individual differences and developmental changes in executive control. Dev Sci 16:269-86
Munakata, Yuko; Herd, Seth A; Chatham, Christopher H et al. (2011) A unified framework for inhibitory control. Trends Cogn Sci 15:453-9
Shinskey, Jeanne L; Munakata, Yuko (2010) Something old, something new: a developmental transition from familiarity to novelty preferences with hidden objects. Dev Sci 13:378-84
Snyder, Hannah R; Munakata, Yuko (2010) Becoming self-directed: abstract representations support endogenous flexibility in children. Cognition 116:155-67
Kharitonova, Maria; Chien, Sarina; Colunga, Eliana et al. (2009) More than a matter of getting 'unstuck': flexible thinkers use more abstract representations than perseverators. Dev Sci 12:662-9
Chatham, Christopher H; Frank, Michael J; Munakata, Yuko (2009) Pupillometric and behavioral markers of a developmental shift in the temporal dynamics of cognitive control. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106:5529-33

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