Department of Educational Psychology


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Published in Contemporary Educational Psychology 35:2 (April 2010; Special Issue on “Brain Research, Learning, and Motivation”), pp. 116–125; doi: 10.1016/j.cedpsych.2010.03.004 Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.


Academic and social success in school has been linked to children’s self-regulation. This study investigated the assessment of the executive function (EF) component of self-regulation using a low-cost, easily administered measure to determine whether scores obtained from the behavioral task would agree with those obtained using a laboratory-based neuropsychological measure of EF skills. The sample included 74 children (37 females; M = 86.2 months) who participated in two assessments of working memory and inhibitory control: Knock–Tap (NEPSY: Korkman, Kirk, & Kemp, 1998), and participated in event-related potential (ERP) testing that included the directional stroop test (DST: Davidson, Cruess, Diamond, O’Craven, and Savoy (1999)). Three main findings emerged. First, children grouped as high vs. low performing on the NEPSY Knock–Tap Task were found to perform differently on the more difficult conditions of the DST (the Incongruent and Mixed Conditions), suggesting that the Knock–Tap Task as a low-cost and easy to administer assessment of EF skills may be one way for teachers to identify students with poor inhibitory control skills. Second, children’s performance on the DST was strongly related to their ERP responses, adding to evidence that differences in behavioral performance on the DST as a measure of EF skills reflect corresponding differences in brain processing. Finally, differences in brain processing on the DST task also were found when the children were grouped based on Knock–Tap performance. Simple screening procedures can enable teachers to identify children whose distractibility, inattentiveness, or poor attention spans may interfere with classroom learning.