Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



THE QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 2012, 65 (2), 209–232; doi: 10.1080/17470210903204618


Copyright 2012 The Experimental Psychology Society.
Open Access at


It is now well established in the adult literature that the ability to engage in flexible thought and action is a complex skill that relies on a number of underlying processes. The development of this skill has received growing interest in recent years. However, theories explaining children’s ability to switch between different tasks typically focus on a single underlying process and are rarely extended to explain development beyond the preschool years. This article reviews the current literature on set shifting in children in comparison with task switching in adults, in order to highlight the range of factors that impact on children’s ability to flexibly shift between tasks. In doing this we hope to set the scene for future research that can begin to establish the relationships between these processes and how they change with age.

Included in

Psychology Commons