Korean Preschoolers’ Advanced Inhibitory Control and Its Relation to Other Executive Skills and Mental State Understanding


  • We would like to express gratitude to children and staff in Samsung Open Children’s House, Yerang Play Room, Kumho Children’s House, and Hyundai Kindergarten in Seoul and Westbourne House, Busy Bees, St Martin’s, and Brookdale preschools in Lancaster. Special thanks go to the head teacher of Yerang Play Room who suggested the idea of administering the backward word span task in a more valid way in Experiment 2 to S.O. We would also thank the anonymous referees for their contributions to this paper.

concerning this article should be addressed to Seungmi Oh or Charlie Lewis, Department of Psychology, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YF, United Kingdom. Electronic mail may be sent to sngmioh@yahoo.co.kr or c.lewis@lancaster.ac.uk.


This study assessed executive function and mental state understanding in Korean preschoolers. In Experiment 1, forty 3.5- and 4-year-old Koreans showed ceiling performance on inhibition and switching measures, although their performance on working memory and false belief was comparable to that of Western children. Experiment 2 revealed a similar advantage in a sample of seventy-six 3- and 4-year-old Koreans compared with sixty-four age-matched British children. Korean children younger than 3.5 years of age showed ceiling effects on some inhibition measures despite more stringent protocols and the link between executive function and mental state understanding was not as strong as in the British sample. The results raise key questions about the nature and development of the executive system and its relation to social understanding.