Cognitive control of sequential knowledge in 2-year-olds: Evidence from an incidental sequence learning and generation task

Document Type: 
Article Type: 
sequence learning, cognitive control, cognitive development
Deposited by: 
Dr. Axel Cleeremans
Date of Issue: 
Andrew J. Bremner, Denis Mareschal, Arnaud Destrebecqz, Axel Cleeremans
Journal/Publication Title: 
Psychological Science
in press
Alternative URL:
Thirty-eight two-year-olds were trained under incidental instructions on a six element deterministic sequence of spatial locations. Following training, participants were informed of the presence of a sequence in the material that they had been taught and were asked to either reproduce or suppress the learned material. Analyses revealed that children’s production of the trained sequential material was modulated by these instructions, and that when asked not to produce the trained sequence 2-year-olds were able to increase their generation of sequence paths that were not part of the training sequence. Performance on this task was thus dependent on active suppression of knowledge of the training sequence rather than on a simpler random generation strategy. Two-year-olds’ control of sequential motor knowledge gained under incidental instructions stands in stark contrast to 3-year-olds’ failure to control explicitly instructed rule-based knowledge (as measured the Dimensional Change Card Sort Task). We suggest that this is because the incidental nature of the learning enables the acquisition of a more procedural form of knowledge with which this age-group have more experience prior to the onset of fluent language.
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