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Title: I am the boss of me : the executive function of self-awareness in 3- and 4-year-olds
Author: Ross, Josephine
ISNI:       0000 0001 4054 0579
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2008
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The current research explored the thesis that cognitive self-recognition might have an executive function in 3- and 4-year-olds. Although it is well established that children recognise themselves in mirrors by the end of infancy, the cognitive and behavioural impact of this capacity has yet to be elucidated. Experiments 1 to 6 showed that preschool children could form and maintain a cognitive link between the self and external stimuli, as a result of which, self-referent stimuli were given mnemonic priority. Experiments 4 to 8 indicated that in tasks involving self-recognition, 3- and 4-year-olds’ ability to process other-referent stimuli was compromised by self-focus. Finally, Experiments 9 and 10 demonstrated that mirror self-recognition increased preschoolers’ tendency to self-regulate, leading them to behave in line with socially accepted standards. Together, these experiments provide novel evidence to confirm that cognitive self-recognition has a role in preschoolers’ performance on tasks requiring memory, attention, inhibition, and planning. This implies that when salient, the self may become the ultimate executer of behaviour. By observing 3- and 4-year-olds’ differential processing of self- and other-referent stimuli we infer the existence of a functionally active, self-reflective agent. Moreover, the role of the self is temporally extended, influencing children’s cognition and behaviour in the past (Experiment 1 to 3), present (Experiments 4 to 8) and future (Experiments 9 to 10). This implies that preschool children may have developed the foundations necessary to build the experience of personal identity.
Supervisor: Anderson, James Russell ; Campbell, Robin N. Sponsor: ESRC PTA-030-2004-00444
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: self-awareness ; self-recognition ; self-regulation ; identity ; child ; development ; Child development ; Self-perception in children ; Preschool children