Emerging executive functions during the preschool years: Advancing measurement and theory

Mary M Stone, Fordham University


This study examined how the development of different aspects of executive function (EF) account for the utilization deficiency (UD) observed in preschoolers' recall on memory tasks. Specifically, performance on direct and indirect measures of inhibition, attention shifting, and working memory among 112 three- to five-year-olds was used to examine how EF related to a well-documented example of UD on a spatial memory task. In this task, participants were asked to relocate one of two sets of 4 miniature toys (animals or chairs) after having first studied their location and participated in a brief cover task. Results suggested significant developmental changes in the preschoolers' ability to remember the toy locations such that older participants generally remembered the locations of more toys than younger participants. Findings also demonstrated that while the majority of all preschool participants produced a memory enhancing strategy (66%), it only improved the performance of older participants. Younger participants demonstrated a UD in that producing the strategy did not help them remember the locations of the toys. Participant performance on psychometrically sound direct measures of EF predicted which participants would benefit from strategy production such that participants who performed better on computerized tasks developed to measure inhibition, attention shifting, and working memory were more likely to utilize, rather than simply produce, the strategy. Therefore, it appears that the UD phenomena can be at least partially understood by developments in EF.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Stone, Mary M, "Emerging executive functions during the preschool years: Advancing measurement and theory" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3562386.