Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Neuroscience and Behavior
Berthier, Neil E.
Davidson, Matthew C.
Keen, Rachel E.
Psychobiology, Developmental psychology, Cognitive psychology
Cognitive Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Neuroscience and Neurobiology
Previous research using violation-of-expectation paradigms suggests that very young infants have a good understanding of unobserved physical events. Yet toddlers appear to lack this knowledge when confronted with the door task, a visuospatial reasoning task which parallels ones used in the habituation/looking time studies. Many studies have been conducted in an effort to determine why toddlers perform poorly on the door task yet the answer remains unclear. The current study used a correlational approach to investigate door task performance from both psychological (executive function), and neuroscience (prefrontal cortex) perspectives. Children between the ages of 2 ½ - 3 years were tested on the standard door task as well as four other tasks. Three of the tasks were believed to activate prefrontal cortex: the three boxes-stationary, a spatial working memory task; the three boxes-scrambled, a non-spatial working memory task; and the three pegs task, an inhibitory control task. The fourth task was a recognition memory task which had been previously linked to the medial temporal lobe. Only a single task, the three pegs task, was found to correlate with door task performance (r = .510, p<.01). Even with age, sex, and performance on the other tasks controlled for, this correlation remained significant (r = .459, p<.05). Furthermore, in a logistic regression the three pegs task was found to be the only significant predictor of door task performance (z=2.87, p<.01). An examination of the errors children made on the door task revealed that over half (58%) could be classified as inhibitory control errors (children returned to the previously rewarded location or repeatedly searched a favorite door). Taken together these data suggest a possible relationship between inhibitory control ability and successful completion of the door task.
Price, Iris Louella, "Visuospatial Reasoning in Toddlers: A Correlational Study of Door Task Performance" (2009). Open Access Dissertations. Paper 63.