Selective Inhibitory Control in Middle Childhood

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The main aim of this study was to investigate the development of selective inhibitory control in middle childhood, a critical period for the maturation of inhibition-related processes. To this end, 64 children aged 6–7 and 56 children aged 10–11 performed a stimulus-selective stop-signal task, which allowed us to estimate not only the efficiency of response inhibition (the stop-signal reaction time or SSRT), but also the strategy adopted by participants to achieve task demands. We found that the adoption of a non-selective (global) strategy characterized by stopping indiscriminately to all stimuli decreased in older children, so that most of them were able to interrupt their ongoing responses selectively at the end of middle childhood. Moreover, compared to younger children, older children were more efficient in their ability to cancel an initiated response (indexed by a shorter SSRT), regardless of which strategy they used. Additionally, we found improvements in other forms of impulsivity, such as the control of premature responding (waiting impulsivity), and attentional-related processes, such as intra-individual variability and distractibility. The present results suggest that middle childhood represents a milestone in the development of crucial aspects of inhibitory control, including selective stopping.