Staff Member Projects

The development of executive control in color- and object naming in children 

Harrie Boelens (with W. la Heij) 

DevelopmentofexecutivecontrolIn this project we focus on the “color-object interference effect” in children: the observation that it takes children of 5-8 years of age longer to name the color of a real object than to name the color of a nonsense drawing. On the basis of our findings we attribute this effect to the children’s difficulty in inhibiting the task of object naming that is automatically activated when they are confronted with a colored object.


Cascade models of word production assume that during lexical access all activated concepts activate their names. In line with this view, it has been shown that naming an object's colour is facilitated when colour name and object name are phonologically related (e.g., "blue" and "blouse"). Prevor and Diamond's recent observation that children take longer to name the colour of real objects than of abstract forms could also be attributed to cascaded processing, resulting in competition between colour name and object name. We replicated this "object-interference effect" in colour naming by children of 5-7 years of age and showed that it generalises to position naming. Furthermore it showed that the effect is also obtained with hard-to-name objects; a finding that is at variance with a lexical-competition account. The finding that the object-interference effect is absent in adults, is consistent with an alternative interpretation in terms of task-set competition. We try to find out what the implications of these results are for models of word production.

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