Symbolic thought in the service of self-control: Effects of social psychological distancing on executive function in young children

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Symbolic thought in the service of self-control: Effects of social psychological distancing on executive function in young children

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2012-09

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This study assessed the influence of graded levels of social psychological distance on cool executive function (EF) in young children. Three- and 5- year-old children (N = 96) were randomly assigned to one of four manipulations of social distance (from proximal to distal: Immersed, No Distance, Third Person, and Exemplar) within the Executive Function Scale for Preschoolers, a comprehensive measure of cool cognitive control. Across the full sample, children in the distal Exemplar condition outperformed those in the No Distance control group. Individual analyses for each age group revealed significant condition effects only for 5-year-olds. Within this older group, increasing psychological distance from the self facilitated cool EF performance in both the Third Person and Exemplar conditions. Moreover, 5-year- olds showed a pattern of incrementally increasing EF as a function of social distancing across all four conditions. Three-year-olds' EF performance was not significantly influenced by the distancing manipulations. These findings speak to the importance of abstract, representational modes of thought in the expression of conscious control over thought and action.

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University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2012. Major: Child Psychology. Advisors: Stephanie M. Carlson. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 68 pages, appendices A-C.

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White, Rachel Elizabeth. (2012). Symbolic thought in the service of self-control: Effects of social psychological distancing on executive function in young children. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/159494.

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