The primary goal of this research is to advance understanding of the representations underlying task-dependent behavior. Infants and children can appear precocious or limited in almost any ability depending on the task administered to them. For example, infants as young as 3.5 months seem to understand the continued existence of hidden objects in violation-of-expectation studies, yet infants fail to manually search for objects hidden by occluders until around 9 months. Similarly, children can answer verbal queries about how to respond flexibly in different situations, yet they fail to show such flexibility in their actual behaviors. Such task-dependent behaviors, or dissociations, raise important questions about the organization, development, and training of our cognitive systems. This project investigates these issues via the following questions: 1.) What kinds of representations lead to task-dependent behaviors, specifically: How do graded representations contribute to task-dependent behaviors? How do distinct types of representations (active and latent) contribute to task-dependent behaviors? How do graded and distinct types of representations interact to influence behavior? 2.) How general is the graded, active-latent framework proposed for understanding infants' and children's task-dependent behaviors, specifically: What revisions are required for computational models of this framework to more fully account for behavioral and biological findings? What are the potential educational implications from this framework? What is the relevance of this framework for understanding adult behavior? The proposed studies investigate these questions through the integration of behavioral testing, neural network modeling, and findings from cognitive neuroscience. The proposed work provides a coherent program for advancing our understanding of the factors contributing to task-dependent behavior -- an essential step toward characterizing the nature of representations of knowledge, and in turn informing theory and its application to both typical and special populations.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-6 (03))
Program Officer
Freund, Lisa S
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University of Colorado at Boulder
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Barker, Jane E; Munakata, Yuko (2015) Time Isn't of the Essence: Activating Goals Rather Than Imposing Delays Improves Inhibitory Control in Children. Psychol Sci 26:1898-908
Chevalier, Nicolas; Martis, Shaina Bailey; Curran, Tim et al. (2015) Metacognitive processes in executive control development: the case of reactive and proactive control. J Cogn Neurosci 27:1125-36
Barker, Jane E; Semenov, Andrei D; Michaelson, Laura et al. (2014) Less-structured time in children's daily lives predicts self-directed executive functioning. Front Psychol 5:593
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
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
Blackwell, Katharine A; Munakata, Yuko (2014) Costs and benefits linked to developments in cognitive control. Dev Sci 17:203-11
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 16:269-286
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
Munakata, Yuko; Snyder, Hannah R; Chatham, Christopher H (2012) Developing Cognitive Control: Three Key Transitions. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 21:71-77
Chatham, Christopher H; Yerys, Benjamin E; Munakata, Yuko (2012) Why won't you do what I want? The informative failures of children and models. Cogn Dev 27:349-366

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