Attention as a cueing function during kindergarten children's dimensional change task performance



The purpose of this experiment is to test whether shift flexibility in kindergarten children is a joint function of rule-usage and inhibition of attention. Sixty-six children were given either a distraction or facilitation condition in a computerized version of the dimensional change card sort task. In the distraction condition, the background of the post-shift matching stimulus was inconsistent with the relevant matching dimension. In the facilitation condition, the background of the post-shift matching stimulus was consistent with the relevant matching dimension. Results revealed that children made few errors in the standard version of the shift task, thereby supporting Cognitive complexity and control theory's contention that 5-year-old children shift easily across dimensions due to their use of higher-order setting rules to solve contradictions. The proportion of errors increased however in the distraction condition suggesting that attention to the background interfered with children's ability to shift between dimensions. Therefore, these data provide evidence that refocusing attention to dimensions along with rule-use processes affect shift flexibility and argue for the inclusion of both factors into theoretical accounts of shift performance. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.