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Volume 10 Issue 2 (2014)

Executive functions, impulsivity, and inhibitory control in adolescents: A structural equation model original article

pp. 32-38 | First published on 15 May 2014 | DOI:10.5709/acp-0154-5

Emanuele Fino, Sergio Melogno, Paolo Iliceto, Sara D’Aliesio, Maria Antonietta Pinto, Gabriella Candilera, Ugo Sabatello


Background. Adolescence represents a critical period for brain development, addressed by neurodevelopmental models to frontal, subcortical-limbic, and striatal activation, a pattern associated with rise of impulsivity and deficits in inhibitory control. The present study aimed at studying the association between self-report measures of impulsivity and inhibitory control with executive function in adolescents, employing structural equation modeling. Method. Tests were administered to 434 high school students. Acting without thinking was measured through the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale and the Dickman Impulsivity Inventory, reward sensitivity through the Behavioral Activation System, and sensation seeking through the Zuckerman–Kuhlman–Aluja Personality Questionnaire. Inhibitory control was assessed through the Behavioral Inhibition System. The performance at the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task indicated executive function. Three models were specified using Sample Covariance Matrix, and the estimated parameters using Maximum Likelihood. Results. In the final model, impulsivity and inhibitory control predicted executive function, but sensation seeking did not. The fit of the model to data was excellent. Conclusions. The hypothesis that inhibitory control and impulsivity are predictors of executive function was supported. Our results appear informative of the validity of self-report measures to examine the relation between impulsivity traits rather than others to regulatory function of cognition and behavior.

Keywords: executive function, impulsivity, inhibitory control, sensation seeking, personality

Abnormalities in visual processing amongst students with body image concerns original article

pp. 39-48 | First published on 15 May 2014 | DOI:10.5709/acp-0155-4

Matthew E. Mundy, Andrea Sadusky


Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) appear to possess abnormalities in the way they observe and discriminate visual information. A pre-occupation with perceived defects in appearance has been attributed to a local visual processing bias. We studied the nature of visual bias in individuals who may be at risk of developing BDD – those with high body image concerns (BICs) – by using inverted stimulus discrimination. Inversion disrupts global, configural information in favor of local, feature-based processing. 40 individuals with high BIC and 40 low BIC controls performed a discrimination task with upright and inverted faces, bodies, and scenes. Individuals with high BIC discriminated inverted faces and bodies faster than controls, and were also more accurate when discriminating inverted bodies and scenes. This reduction in inversion effect for high BIC individuals may be due to a stimulus-general local, detail-focused processing bias, which may be associated with maladaptive fixation on small features in their appearance.

Keywords: body image, visual processing, inversion effect, faces, bodies, scenes, body dysmorphic disorder

Proactive control of proactive interference using the method of loci original article

pp. 49-58 | First published on 9 June 2014 | DOI:10.5709/acp-0156-3

Willa S. Bass, Karl M. Oswald


Proactive interference builds up with exposure to multiple lists of similar items with a resulting reduction in recall. This study examined the effectiveness of using a proactive strategy of the method of loci to reduce proactive interference in a list recall paradigm of categorically similar words. While all participants reported using some form of strategy to recall list words, this study demonstrated that young adults were able to proactively use the method of loci after 25 min of instruction to reduce proactive interference as compared with other personal spontaneous strategies. The implications of this study are that top-down proactive strategies such as the method of loci can significantly reduce proactive interference, and that the use of image and sequence or location are especially useful in this regard.

Keywords: method of loci, proactive interference, mnemonics

Number sense or working memory? The effect of two computer-based trainings on mathematical skills in elementary school original article

pp. 59-67 | First published on 9 June 2014 | DOI:10.5709/acp-0157-2

Jörg-Tobias Kuhn, Heinz Holling


Research on the improvement of elementary school mathematics has shown that computer-based training of number sense (e.g., processing magnitudes or locating numbers on the number line) can lead to substantial achievement gains in arithmetic skills. Recent studies, however, have highlighted that training domain-general cognitive abilities (e.g., working memory [WM]) may also improve mathematical achievement. This study addressed the question of whether a training of domain-specific number sense skills or domain-general WM abilities is more appropriate for improving mathematical abilities in elementary school. Fifty-nine children (Mage = 9 years, 32 girls and 27 boys) received either a computer-based, adaptive training of number sense (n = 20), WM skills (n = 19), or served as a control group (n = 20). The training duration was 20 min per day for 15 days. Before and after training, we measured mathematical ability using a curriculum-based math test, as well as spatial WM. For both training groups, we observed substantial increases in the math posttest compared to the control group (d = .54 for number sense skills training, d = .57 for WM training, respectively). Whereas the number sense group showed significant gains in arithmetical skills, the WM training group exhibited marginally significant gains in word problem solving. However, no training group showed significant posttest gains on the spatial WM task. Results indicate that a short training of either domain-specific or domain-general skills may result in reliable short-term training gains in math performance, although no stable training effects were found in the spatial WM task.

Keywords: working memory training, number sense training, elementary school, arithmetics

Long-term response-stimulus associations can influence distractor-response bindings original article

pp. 68-80 | First published on 26 June 2014 | DOI:10.5709/acp-0158-1

Birte Moeller, Christian Frings


Strong associations between target stimuli and responses usually facilitate fast and effortless reactions. The present study investigated whether long-term associations between distractor stimuli and responses modulate behavior. In particular, distractor stimuli can affect behavior due to distractor-based stimulus-response retrieval, a phenomenon called distractor-response binding: An ignored stimulus becomes temporarily associated with a response and retrieves it at stimulus repetition. In a flanker task, participants ignored left and right pointing arrows and responded to a target letter either with left and right (strongly associated) responses or with upper and lower (weakly associated) responses. Binding effects were modulated in dependence of the long-term association strength between distractors and responses. If the association was strong (arrows pointing left and right with left and right responses), binding effects emerged but only in case of compatible responses. If the long-term association between distractors and responses was weak (arrows pointing left and right with upper and lower responses), binding was weaker and not modulated by compatibility. In contrast, sequential compatibility effects were not modulated by association strength between distractor and response. The results indicate that existing long-term associations between stimuli responses may modulate the impact of an ignored stimulus on action control.

Keywords: long-term associations, short-term stimulus-response bindings, distractor-response binding, action control, learning