The Multidimensional Card Selection Task: A new way to measure concurrent cognitive flexibility in preschoolers.

Research paper by Gal G Podjarny, Deepthi D Kamawar, Katherine K Andrews

Indexed on: 21 Mar '17Published on: 21 Mar '17Published in: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology


Most executive function research examining preschoolers' cognitive flexibility, the ability to think about something in more than one way, has focused on preschoolers' facility for sequentially switching their attention from one dimension to another (e.g., sorting bivalent cards first by color and then by shape). We know very little about preschoolers' ability to coordinate more than one dimension simultaneously (concurrent cognitive flexibility). Here we report on a new task, the Multidimensional Card Selection Task, which was designed to measure children's ability to consider two dimensions, and then three dimensions, concurrently (e.g., shape and size, and then shape, size, and color). More than half of the preschoolers in our sample of 107 (50 3-year-olds and 57 4-year-olds) could coordinate three dimensions simultaneously and consistently across three test trials. Furthermore, performance on the Multidimensional Card Selection Task was related, but not identical, to performance on other cognitive tasks, including a widely used measure of switching cognitive flexibility (the Dimensional Change Card Sort). The Multidimensional Card Selection Task provides a new way to measure concurrent cognitive flexibility in preschoolers, and opens another avenue for exploring the emergence of early cognitive flexibility development.