Evidence for negative priming in children
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Tracking the fate of irrelevant information using the negative priming paradigm may provide valuable insight into mechanisms underlying selective attention. Negative priming effects may reflect efficient inhibitory function acting to facilitate selection of relevant information (e.g., Tipper, 1985). Although negative priming effects are consistently observed in young adults, their existence in children is questionable (Simone & McCormick, 1999; Tipper, Bourque, Anderson, & Brehaut, 1989). This study addressed the question of whether children would show negative priming in conceptual and identity-based experimental designs. Three experiments were used to examine inhibitory function in children aged five to 12 years. It was argued that negative priming effects in children may be determined by factors within the experimental context affecting selection requirements across prime and probe trials. Specifically, negative priming effects in children may be absent when selection difficulty is reduced or expectation of selection difficulty is not upheld across experimental trials. Experiments 1, 2, and 3 attempted to maximise and maintain selection difficulty across prime and probe trials by omitting any repeated distractor conditions, employing only the relevant Ignored Repetition and Control conditions, reducing spatial separation between target and distractor, downplaying the saliency of Ignored Repetition manipulation, and using overlapping stimuli. Because the results of these experiments produced significant and similar magnitudes of negative priming across the tested age range, it appears that inhibitory capacity is intact and operational by the age of five. The results were quite consistent in each of the three experiments. They were found with both naming and same-different matching paradigms, vocal and manual responses, familiar and unfamiliar stimuli, and three-dimensional possible and impossible shapes. Taken together, these findings, coupled with increasing evidence for negative priming in older adults, strongly suggested that inhibitory processing capacity is intact across the life-span.