Metacognitive processes in executive control development: The case of reactive and proactive control

Nicolas Chevalier, Shaina Martis, Tim Curran, Yuko Munakata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Young children engage cognitive control reactively in response to events, rather than proactively preparing for events. Such limitations in executive control have been explained in terms of fundamental constraints on children’s cognitive capacities. Alternatively, young children might be capable of proactive control but differ from older children in their meta-cognitive decisions regarding when to engage proactive control. We examined these possibilities in three conditions of a task switching paradigm, varying in whether task cues were available before or after target onset. Reaction times, ERPs, and pupil dilation showed that 5-year-olds did engage in advance preparation, a critical aspect of proactive control, but only when reactive control was made more difficult, whereas 10-year-olds engaged proactive control whenever possible. These findings highlight meta-cognitive processes in children’s cognitive control, an understudied aspect of executive control development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1125-1136
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number6
Early online date30 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2015


  • executive control
  • meta-cognition
  • proactive control
  • reactive control
  • cognitive development
  • children

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