Qualitative change in executive control during childhood and adulthood

Nicolas Chevalier, Kristina L. Huber, Sandra A. Wiebe, Kimberly Andrews Espy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Executive control development typically has been conceptualized to result from quantitative changes in the efficiency of the underlying processes. In contrast, the present study addressed the possibility of qualitative change with age by examining how children and adults detect task switches. Participants in three age groups (5- and 10-year-old children, young adults) completed two conditions of a cued task-switching paradigm where task cues were presented either in isolation or in conjunction with transition cues. Five-year-olds performed better with transition cues, whereas the reverse effect was observed at age 10 and with adults. Unlike 5-year-olds who detect switches after semantically processing cues, older participants strategically detect switches based on perceptual processing only. Age-related qualitative changes promote increasingly optimal adjustment of executive resources with age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013


  • Executive control
  • Strategy
  • Development
  • Set-shifting
  • Working memory


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