Executive functions and their differential contribution to sustained attention in 5- to 8-year-old children

Loher, Sarah; Roebers, Claudia M. (2013). Executive functions and their differential contribution to sustained attention in 5- to 8-year-old children. Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology, 3(1), pp. 51-63. Canadian Center of Science and Education 10.5539/jedp.v3n1p51

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ABSTRACT Everyday routine in general and school settings in particular make high demands on children's abilities to sustain their focus of attention over longer time periods. School tasks thus require the child to accomplish the task on an appropriate level of performance while maintaining the focus of attention even under repetitious or distracting conditions. However, sustained attention (SA) may be a more heterogeneous construct than commonly assumed as it requires the individual not only to sustain attentional capacities but also to store and maintain the task rule (working memory), to inhibit inappropriate responses (inhibition), and to switch according to requirements (switching). It might thus involve processes counted among executive functions (EF). In the present study, performance in EF tasks (covering the core components inhibition, switching, and working memory) and in a SA task was assessed in 118 children, aged between 5;0 and 8;11 years. Similar age-dependent performance trajectories were found in EF components and SA, indicating ongoing performance improvements between 5 until at least 8 years of age in SA and in EF. Interrelations between single EF components and SA showed to be small to moderate. Finally, different patterns of SA performance predictions were found in age-homogeneous subgroups with inhibition being crucial for SA performance in the youngest and switching in the oldest age group. Taken as a whole, even though similarities in assumed developmental trajectories and substantial interrelations point to common underlying processes in EF and SA, age-dependent patterns of explained variance indicate clear discriminability.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Developmental Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Loher, Sarah and Roebers, Claudia


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology




Canadian Center of Science and Education




Jeannine Sebel

Date Deposited:

24 Apr 2014 09:40

Last Modified:

10 Sep 2017 01:49

Publisher DOI:






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