The response-monitoring mechanism: Influence of feedback and temperament

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2008-05-06

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The purpose of the current study was to examine behavioral and physiological processes underlying response-monitoring and to document the manner in which these processes are expressed during early childhood. As well, this study examined two factors important in understanding individual differences in monitoring: performance feedback and temperament. A total of seventy-four children (mean age 7.5 years) were tested using a modified flanker paradigm administered in both no-feedback and feedback conditions. Accuracy and reaction time measures of behavioral performance were assessed as well as event-related potentials linked to response execution and feedback presentation. Data were also examined in relation to the temperamental dimensions of shyness and inhibitory control.

The results indicate a strong impact of trial-by-trial feedback on both behavioral and physiological measures. Overall, feedback served to increase children's task engagement as evidenced by fewer errors of omission and faster reaction times. Similarly, the physiological measures also varied as a function of feedback such that the error-related Positivity (Pe) and the feedback-related negativity (FRN) were more pronounced on incorrect as compared to correct trials in the feedback condition. Larger FRN responses were also associated with fewer errors of commission. These findings were further moderated by individual differences in temperament. Specifically, feedback was particularly influential in increasing task involvement for children low in inhibitory control and enhancing performance accuracy for children low in shyness

Overall these results confirm a strong impact of feedback on task engagement as assessed by children's behavioral performance and physiological reactivity. Findings are presented in the framework of individual differences in cognitive control and variations in children's physiological measures of response-monitoring are discussed. Several avenues for future research are provided which emphasize the need for investigations of response-monitoring in young children and also highlight the importance of exploring the applicability of these assessments across various cognitive and social contexts.

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