A hierarchical competing systems model of the emergence and early development of executive function


  • For commentaries on this article see Cooper (2008), Diamond (2008) and Smith (2008).

Address for correspondence: Stuart Marcovitch, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170, USA; e-mail: s_marcov@uncg.edu or Philip David Zelazo, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, 51 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455-0345, USA; e-mail: zelazo@umn.edu


The hierarchical competing systems model (HCSM) provides a framework for understanding the emergence and early development of executive function – the cognitive processes underlying the conscious control of behavior – in the context of search for hidden objects. According to this model, behavior is determined by the joint influence of a developmentally invariant habit system and a conscious representational system that becomes increasingly influential as children develop. This article describes a computational formalization of the HCSM, reviews behavioral and computational research consistent with the model, and suggests directions for future research on the development of executive function.