The present study examined the relative impact of differentially valenced affective pictures on the performance of a cognitive task in young children, ages 5-9 years (N=24). Stimuli consisted of a set of 90 positive, neutral, and negatively valenced pictures (30 in each category) taken from the International Affective Pictures System, and a pair of simple tones. Participants were required to indicate whether a tone heard was high or low within a four-second window, while viewing the affective pictures. Simple reaction times (RT’s) were recorded and compared by valence to investigate the relative “interference” of the emotional stimuli on task performance. Results indicated that both negative and positive pictures yielded slower RT’s when compared to neutral pictures. This effect was largest for 5-year olds, only modest in 7-year olds, and was minimally active in 9-year olds. These findings demonstrate a positive developmental progression in the capacity for emotion regulation in young children—and/or an increasingly fortified ability to direct attentional resources—at the intersection of emotion and cognition.
McGarrah, Michael W..
The Development of Emotion Regulation & Children’s Age-Related Performance on the Emotional Interference Task.
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