Date of Completion
Executive function; reward; motivation; temperament
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
While the integration of cognitive control with motivational processes is of key interest to the developmental sciences, the majority of research examining the effects of reward on early childhood executive function (EF) has used different measures, varying in task demands, across motivational conditions. Thus, the specific impact of reward on early childhood EF, as well as whether there are individual differences in these effects, remains unclear. The present study of 3.5 – 5-year-old children (N = 93) employed a within-subjects design. Children received rewarded (sticker plus feedback) and non-rewarded (feedback) conditions of equivalent EF measures (i.e., Day/Night and Big/Small tasks), which were divided into Stroop and non-Stroop phases. Parent-report measures of child reward sensitivity (Reward-Responsiveness and Positive Anticipation) were also collected. Children exhibited higher Stroop accuracy and overall slower response times during the rewarded, as compared to the non-rewarded conditions. Further, reward-based changes in children’s Stroop accuracy were negatively correlated with reward sensitivity; children with low reward sensitivity exhibited higher accuracy as a function of reward. However, there were no significant associations among reward sensitivity and reward-based change in response time. The potential roles of attentional control and arousal in mediating the current findings are discussed.
Bryant, Lauren, "Reward Sensitivity Counteracts the Effects of Incentives on Early Childhood Executive Function" (2020). Doctoral Dissertations. 2512.