What is it about?

In everyday life, children are required to use cognitive abilities (e.g., attention, inhibition) in a flexible manner to adapt efficiently to changing environmental demands at school or at home (e.g., switching from an easy to a difficul mathamatical expression requires different attentional engagement). To do this, they can use regularities in their environment to identify situations where more or less effort is required. In this study, we show that compared to adolescents and adults, children need more time to infer environmental regularities and adapt performance accordingly. This opens up many potential implications for educational and clinical interventions.

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Why is it important?

The present work goes beyond the mere investigation of how cognitive abilities work; instead, it seeks to unravel how cognitive abilities adapt on the fly to changing environmental demands. Difficulties in the ability to rapidly optimize and readjust cognitive abilities based on contextual changes can lead to, for example, poor performance and/or increased fatigue. Therefore, understanding how this mechanism works in children and adolescents is crucial to rethink educational strategies, find potential early markers of atypical development and provide tailored clinical support to children struggling with cognitive skills in everyday life.


I hope this article will make developmental researchers, psychologists and teachers understand the importance of studying cognitive abilities in a more ecological way. This is crucial to implement educational settings scaffolding individual needs and clinical intervention that ensure transfer effects to everyday life settings.

Lisa Toffoli
Universita degli Studi di Padova

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Little fast, little slow, should I stay or should I go? Adapting cognitive control to local-global temporal prediction across typical development, PLoS ONE, February 2023, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0281417.
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