Separating the Fish From the Sharks: A Longitudinal Study of Preschool Response Inhibition


  • This work was supported by NIH Grants MH065668 and DA014661 to Kimberly Andrews Espy, DA024769 to Sandra Wiebe, and DA023653 to Kimberly Andrews Espy and Lauren Wakschlag. Portions of these data were presented at the meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, April 2010, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We thank the members of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory for assistance with data collection and coding.

concerning this article should be addressed to Sandra A. Wiebe, Department of Psychology, University of Alberta, P217 Biological Sciences Building, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2E9. Electronic mail may be sent to


The development of response inhibition was investigated using a computerized go/no-go task, in a lagged sequential design where 376 preschool children were assessed repeatedly between 3.0 and 5.25 years of age. Growth curve modeling was used to examine change in performance and predictors of individual differences. The most pronounced change was observed between 3 and 3.75 years. Better working memory and general cognitive ability were related to more accurate performance at all ages, but relations with speed changed with age, where better cognitive skills were initially related to slower responding, but faster responding at later ages. Boys responded more quickly and were more accurate on go trials, whereas girls were better able to withhold responding on no-go trials.