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Distinct discrimination learning strategies and their relation with spatial memory and attentional control in 4- to 14-year-olds

, : Distinct discrimination learning strategies and their relation with spatial memory and attentional control in 4- to 14-year-olds. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 111(4): 644-662

Behavioral, psychophysiological, and neuropsychological studies have revealed large developmental differences in various learning paradigms where learning from positive and negative feedback is essential. The differences are possibly due to the use of distinct strategies that may be related to spatial working memory and attentional control. In this study, strategies in performing a discrimination learning task were distinguished in a cross-sectional sample of 32 children from 4 to 14 years of age. The trial-by-trial accuracy data were analyzed with mathematical learning models. The best-fitting model revealed three learning strategies: hypothesis testing, slow abrupt learning, and nonlearning. The proportion of hypothesis-testing children increased with age. Nonlearners were present only in the youngest age group. Feature preferences for the irrelevant dimension had a detrimental effect on performance in the youngest age group. The executive functions spatial working memory and attentional control significantly predicted posterior learning strategy probabilities after controlling for age.We present a model-based analysis of the development of discrimination learning. We find two discontinuous learning strategies, hypothesis testing and slow learning, and nonlearning. Proportion of hypothesis testing children increases between 4 and 14 years. Feature preferences for the irrelevant dimension hinder learning in 4-to 5-year-olds. Spatial working memory and attentional control significantly predict strategy use..


PMID: 22176926

DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2011.10.010

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