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Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00014

Conflict adaptation in 5-year-old preschool children: evidence from emotional contexts

Danfeng Li1, 2,  Tongran Liu1, 2* and Jiannong Shi1, 2
  • 1Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology (CAS), China
  • 2Department of Psychology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

This research investigated the individual behavioral and electrophysiological differences during emotional conflict adaptation processes in preschool children. Thirty children (16 girls, mean age 5.44±0.28 years) completed an emotional Flanker task (stimulus-stimulus cognitive control, S-S) and an emotional Simon task (stimulus-response cognitive control, S-R). Behaviorally, the 5-year-old preschool children exhibited a reliable congruency sequence effect (CSE) in the emotional contexts, with faster response times (RTs) and lower error rates in the incongruent trials preceded by an incongruent trial (iI trial) than in the incongruent trials preceded by a congruent trial (cI trial). Regarding electrophysiology, the children demonstrated longer N2 and P3 latencies in the incongruent trials than in the congruent trials during emotional conflict control processes. Importantly, the boys showed a reliable CSE of N2 amplitude when faced with fearful target expression. Moreover, 5-year-old children showed better emotional CSEs in response to happy targets than to fearful targets as demonstrated by the magnitude of CSE in terms of the RT, error rate, N2 amplitude and P3 latency. In addition, the results demonstrated that 5-year-old children processed S-S emotional conflicts and S-R emotional conflicts differently and performed better on S-S emotional conflicts than on S-R emotional conflicts according to the comparison of the RT-CSE and P3 latency-CSE values. The current study provides insight into how emotionally salient stimuli affect cognitive processes among preschool children.

Keywords: conflict adaptation, facial expressions, Preschool children, event-related potential, congruency sequence effect;

Received: 15 Aug 2018; Accepted: 10 Jan 2019.

Edited by:

Lutz Jäncke, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Reviewed by:

James R. Schmidt, Université de Bourgogne, France
Mikle South, Brigham Young University, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Li, Liu and Shi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Tongran Liu, Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology (CAS), Beijing, 100101, Beijing Municipality, China, liutr@psych.ac.cn