The development of cognitive flexibility beyond the preschool period: an investigation using a modified Flexible Item Selection Task

J Exp Child Psychol. 2014 Sep;125:13-34. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2014.01.021. Epub 2014 May 9.


We explored the development of cognitive flexibility in typically developing 6-, 8-, and 10-year-olds and adults by modifying a common cognitive flexibility task, the Flexible Item Selection Task (FIST). Although performance on the standard FIST reached ceiling by 8 years, FIST performance on other variations continued to improve until 10 years of age. Within a detailed task analysis, we also explored working memory storage and processing components of executive function and how these contribute to the development of cognitive flexibility. The findings reinforce the notion that cognitive flexibility is a multifaceted construct but that the development of working memory contributes in part to age-related change in this ability.

Keywords: Cognitive flexibility; Dimensional Change Card Sort; Executive function; Flexible Item Selection Task; Wisconsin Card Sort; Working memory.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Task Performance and Analysis