Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Aaron Buss

Committee Members

Daniella Corbetta, Jessica Hay


A recent neural-process approach using dynamic field theory (DFT), put forth by Buss and Spencer (2014), demonstrated how a simple dimensional attention mechanism can explain the behavioral and neural data associated with the development of flexible attention and performance in the Dimensional Change Card Sorting task (DCCS). Taking a dynamical systems approach to the development of attention in executive functioning is critical as it allows us to further probe the underlying processes and mechanisms that give rise to later life success.

The goal of the current proposal is to generalize DFT in order to explain the development of selective attention in the context of the Triad-Classification task (TC) and to test these assumptions by collecting behavioral and hemodynamic data. The aforementioned model predicts that both selective and flexible attention develop through a common dimensional attention mechanism in the context of the DCCS and TC tasks respectably. Despite this common mechanism, the model also predicts divergence in hemodynamic activation between these tasks at different points in development, suggesting certain aspects of the proposed frontal-temporal-parietal network may be involved uniquely when engaging in selectivity verses flexibility. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the specific data used to test this theory, so minimal time will be spent on the predictive power of such a model; rather the emphasis will be on how the model and data together can inform the literature concerning the development of these two types of attention.

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