A hierarchical competing systems model of the emergence and early development of executive function

Dev Sci. 2009 Jan;12(1):1-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00754.x.


The hierarchical competing systems model (HCSM) provides a framework for understanding the emergence and early development of executive function--the cognitive processes underlying the conscious control of behavior--in the context of search for hidden objects. According to this model, behavior is determined by the joint influence of a developmentally invariant habit system and a conscious representational system that becomes increasingly influential as children develop. This article describes a computational formalization of the HCSM, reviews behavioral and computational research consistent with the model, and suggests directions for future research on the development of executive function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Consciousness / physiology*
  • Critical Period, Psychological*
  • Habits*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Psychological Tests