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Prepotency in action: Does children's knowledge of an artifact affect their ability to inhibit acting on it?

Riggs, Kevin J.; Simpson, Andrew; Carroll, Daniel J.


Andrew Simpson

Daniel J. Carroll


Prepotent actions are actions that are strongly triggered by the environment, and so tend to be carried out, unless intentionally avoided. Understanding what makes an action prepotent is central to an understanding of inhibitory control. The current study investigated actions made on artifacts, since in artifact-dense cultures, much everyday behavior is focused them. Eighty 3-year-olds were tested on a Go/no-go task that required children to make an action on go trials, and to withhold it on no-go trials. These actions were made on artifacts with which the actions were either associated (e.g., drawing with a crayon) or unassociated (e.g., drawing with a hammer). Failure to avoid the go action on no-go trials was taken as evidence that the action was prepotent. Results suggested that an action did not need to be associated with an artifact in order for it to be prepotent (so drawing with a hammer could be prepotent). However, associated actions were sometimes produced even when children had been instructed to make an unassociated action. Children sometimes drew with a crayon when told to hammer with it, but never hammered when told to draw.


Riggs, K. J., Simpson, A., & Carroll, D. J. (2014). Prepotency in action: Does children's knowledge of an artifact affect their ability to inhibit acting on it?. Journal of experimental child psychology, 118(1), 127-133.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 16, 2013
Online Publication Date Sep 14, 2013
Publication Date Feb 1, 2014
Deposit Date Apr 21, 2015
Publicly Available Date Apr 21, 2015
Journal Journal of experimental child psychology
Print ISSN 0022-0965
Electronic ISSN 1096-0457
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 118
Issue 1
Pages 127-133
Keywords Development; Inhibitory control; Prepotency; Artifact; Action
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of experimental child psychology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of experimental child psychology, v. 118, February, 2014. DOI 10.1016/j.jecp.2013.07.015


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