Improving executive function in childhood: evaluation of a training intervention for 5-year-old children

Front Psychol. 2015 Apr 30;6:525. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00525. eCollection 2015.


Executive function (EF) refers to a set of higher order cognitive processes that control and modulate cognition under continuously changing and multiple task demands. EF plays a central role in early childhood, is associated and predictive of important cognitive achievements and has been recognized as a significant aspect of school readiness. This study examines the efficacy of a group based intervention for 5-year-old children that focuses on basic components of EF (working memory, inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility). The intervention included 12 sessions, lasted 1 month and used low-cost materials. Seventy-five children took part in the study. The results indicate that the children who attended the intervention outperformed controls in simple and more complex EF tasks. Specifically, these children exhibited increased abilities to delay gratification, to control on-going responses, to process and update information, and to manage high cognitive conflict. These results suggest the possibility that this intervention, which may be easily implemented in educational services, can promote EF during preschool period before the entrance in primary school.

Keywords: cognitive flexibility; executive function; inhibition (psychology); preschool; training; working memory.