Psychology, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor Anne Schutte. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Heidi L. Beattie


Individual differences in preschool and school-aged children’s attention, inhibition and spatial working memory were examined after exposure to a yoga intervention. Previous research has found that exposure to yoga has improved attention in both adults and children. Previous research, however, is limited in regards to examining this relationship in a preschool-aged population. The purpose of the current study is to examine and compare the relationship between preschool-aged as well as school-aged children’s attention, inhibition, and spatial working memory abilities for children who participated in a yoga intervention and children who do not participate in a yoga intervention. Twenty-six 4 to 8-year-olds who participated in a six-week yoga intervention and 26 4 to 8-year-olds who did not participate in a yoga intervention, but instead read an extra 30 minutes a week with their parents, were asked to complete a Continuous Performance Task (attention measurement), a Flanker Task (inhibition measurement) and a Spatial Memory Task in a pre and posttest format. Parents were asked to fill out questionnaires regarding their child’s social behavior, and effortful control. Follow-up questionnaires were administered along with follow-up questions regarding the parents and children’s perception of the yoga and reading intervention to the preschool-aged children’s parents. The findings suggest that yoga can be used as an intervention for both preschool and school-aged children as noted by video observations of the yoga course. Our current study provided weak evidence that yoga may have impacted the inhibition abilities of preschool-aged children as measured by our flanker task. However, future research should further examine the relationship between yoga and the improvement of inhibition abilities in young children. This current research added to the research in the area of behavioral interventions for young children’s executive functioning by examining if yoga helps improve the executive functioning in school-aged and preschool-aged children. This study is a good first step to understanding if yoga could be used a possible intervention strategy with children in order to help strengthen his or her executive functioning.

Advisor: Anne Schutte