Enhancing Executive Functioning of Children Living in Poverty: A Randomized Experiment Study

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    It has been well established that growing up in poverty is associated with a wide array of negative psychological outcomes covering cognitive ability, intelligence, and academic achievement; and one of the best candidates for explaining this association is executive function (EF). EF is an umbrella term encompassing a set of cognitive processes that enable the conscious control of thought and action to guide behavior toward a goal, and researchers have postulated inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and working memory as the main components of EF. Indeed, EF provides a promising area for the study in poverty as it shows stronger associations with socioeconomic status (SES) than many other cognitive systems. A growing body of evidence reports that EF in early childhood is highly predictive of later academic performance, suggesting that differences in EF may robustly affect the life trajectories of children growing up in poverty. Importantly, recent researches suggest that early cognitive stimulation in EF may affect later psychological outcomes and children with the weakest EFs gain the most benefit of any EF intervention, signifying an important need for early intervention in EF particularly in a group of impoverished children. Furthermore, other studies suggest that the impact of low SES on cognitive functioning may also due to the negative labels associated with poverty. Specifically, these negative labels of incompetency contribute to the negative emotions and thoughts and drain one’s cognitive resources. Consistently, recent research suggests that intervention in self-affirmation may induce positive result in self-concept and enhance a wide range of EFs, nonetheless, whether the intervention is effective among children living in poverty remains unknown. Answer to this question will impose important theoretical and societal implications. The current study intends to evaluate the transfer effect of an EF training program (i.e. task-switching computer based training) and a self-affirmation intervention on EFs and academic performance. The current study consists of a 4-month training, in which 290 primary school students aged 7 and 9 will be recruited and randomly assigned to one of the following four groups: 1) the task-switching training only; 2) the self-affirmation intervention only; 3) both task-switching training and self-affirmation intervention; and 4) no intervention. Pre-test and post-test on task-switching performance, EF, academic achievement and academic engagement will be administered to assess the effectiveness of the two intervention programs.
    Effective start/end date01/03/1631/07/18


    • Executive functioning
    • children
    • poverty
    • Academic achievement
    • Intergenerational poverty