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The Role of Stimulus Novelty on Children's Inflexible Dimensional Switching


  • This research was supported by an NSERC-CGS doctoral scholarship awarded to the first author, and an NSERC Discovery Grant awarded to the second author. Portions of this work were presented at the 2012 Jean Piaget Society meeting and the 2012 biennial meetings of the International Conference on Infant Studies. The authors would like to thank Dr. Matthias Niemeier and Dr. Kang Lee for their comments on this work. The authors would also like to thank Diane Mangalindan and all the other members of the Laboratory for Infant Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough for their help in conducting this research.


Children's ability to flexibly shift attention between different representational schemes was investigated using the dimensional change card sorting task. Across three experiments (N = 56 three-year-olds and N = 40 four-year-olds in 'Experiment 1: Perceptual Similarity of the Task Material'; N = 14 three-year-olds in 'Experiment 2: Saliency of the Perceptual Manipulations'; and N = 14 three-year-olds in 'Experiment 3: Manipulating Task-Irrelevant Features Only') the role of perceptual information on children's cognitive flexibility was investigated by manipulating different aspects of the task materials between pre- and postswitch phases. Better performance was observed when either task-relevant (the color or shape of the images on the cards) or task-irrelevant information (the background color or shape of the actual cards) was changed, with this improvement occurring when the changes were salient enough to induce a stimulus novelty effect.