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Reactive and proactive cognitive control as underlying processes of number processing in children

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Cognitive control is crucial to resolve conflict in tasks such as the flanker task. Reactive control is used when conflict is rare, whereas proactive control is more efficient in situations where conflict is frequent. Macizo and Herrera (Psychological Research, 2013, Vol. 77, pp. 651-658) found that these two control processes can also underlie two-digit number comparison in adults. Specifically, they observed that the unit-decade compatibility effect decreased in a block containing many conflict trials as compared with a block containing few conflict trials (i.e., a list-wide proportion congruency effect). In the current study, we assessed whether this finding also applies to children (7-, 9-, and 11-year-olds). Participants performed a flanker task and a two-digit number comparison task. In both tasks, the proportion of conflict was manipulated (80% vs. 20%). Results from the flanker task showed a typical list-wide proportion congruency effect in reaction times in all participating age groups. In the number comparison task, we observed list-wide proportion congruency effects in both reaction times and error rates, which did not interact with age. Our findings support the assumption that children as young as 7 years can effectively use proactive and reactive control strategies. We showed that this effect is not limited to standardized artificial laboratory tasks, such as the flanker task, but also underlies more daily life tasks, such as the processing of Arabic numbers.
Journal: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
ISSN: 0022-0965
Volume: 215
Pages: 1 - 28
Publication year:2022
Embargoed until:19/11/2022