The relation between executive function and motivational orientations via private speech in preschoolers




Liebermann, Dana

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Language may play a key role in determining the relation between motivation and higher-order cognitive processes, as language has been shown to have a motivational function in preschoolers (Chiu & Alexander, 2000) and has also been implicated in the development of executive functioning (Hughes & Graham, 2002). The particular aspect of language which may best serve to connect these processes is self-directed speech (i.e., private speech) as the production of private speech is an indication of language and thought merging to form a new level of cognitive organization (Berk, 1992; Chiu & Alexander, 2000). Determining if the relation between motivational orientations and executive functioning can be mediated by private speech was examined to provide insight into the way in which motivational orientations and cognitive skills are related. In order to explore the role of private speech as a mediator, 4- to 6-year-old children were administered two EF tasks, the Tinkertoy test and the Tower of Hanoi, during which the impact of various reward contingencies on EF performance and self-directed speech elicitation was investigated. Although relations were found between measures of motivation, private speech, and EF performance, private speech did not act as a generative mechanism through which motivation influenced children’s performance on the EF tasks. This study represents the first attempt to explore such a mediational model in this age group and results provide preliminary information about how private speech, motivation, and EF are related with regard to children’s goal directed behaviors.



Executive Function, Motivation, Language, Cognitive Development