Switch detection in preschoolers' cognitive flexibility

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The current study addressed the role of switch detection in cognitive flexibility by testing the effect of transition cues (i.e., cues that directly signal the need to switch or maintain a given task goal) in a cued set-shifting paradigm at 5. years of age. Children performed better, especially on switch trials, when transition cues were combined with traditional task cues (i.e., cues that directly signal the relevant task on a given trial) relative to conditions without transition cues. This effect was not influenced by explicit knowledge of transition cues or transition cue transparency, suggesting that transition cues did not need to be semantically processed to be beneficial. These findings reveal that young children's difficulties in set-shifting situations stem partially from failures to monitor for the need to switch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-370
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Executive control
  • Flexibility
  • Goal management
  • Preschoolers
  • Set shifting
  • Task switching
  • Transition cues

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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