Age‐related Asynchrony of Knowledge and Action

Philip D Zelazo, J. Steven Reznick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Children's ability to act in accordance with rules was assessed in 2 experiments. Experiment I included 66 children, aged 31, 33.5, or 36 months, who performed 2 tasks. In a forced‐choice, deductive sorting task, children were told 2 rules (if‐then statements) and then required to use the rules to sort items. A knowledge task tested children's knowledge about which rule's antecedent condition held true for each item. Rules were either based on natural categories (e.g., vehicles vs. musical instruments) or ad hoc categories (e.g., things found inside the house vs. things found outside). Children in the 2 younger age groups performed better on the knowledge task than on the sorting task. The 36‐month‐olds performed equally well on both tasks. In Experiment 2, groups of 12 32.25‐month‐olds received either the knowledge task, the sorting task, or a mnemonically supported version of the sorting task. The group that received the knowledge task performed better than the other groups, which did not differ. This result undermines the possibility that differential performance on the knowledge and sorting tasks is due to a difference in memory demand. Taken together, the results of Experiments 1 and 2 imply a relatively rapid, age‐related change culminating in the ability to execute systematically rules that require access to extant knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)719-735
Number of pages17
JournalChild development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1991
Externally publishedYes

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