Emotions play a critical role in decision-making. Displacement activities are behavioral patterns that occur in frustrating situations, but it is unclear whether they are a functionless byproduct of motivational conflict or whether they function to limit the costs associated to the internal conflict. We tested 151 preschool children in a delay maintenance task. They were individually presented with an attractive musical box and instructed not to touch it for three minutes, during which they were left alone. We aimed to assess (i) if children performed displacement activities when they were required not to interact with the box, and (ii) whether these behaviors helped children to inhibit their response to the box, or whether they were just a byproduct of the distress experienced. We identified 13 displacement activities and scored from video clips (i) the latency to interact with the box, and (ii) the displacement activities that occurred before and after having interacted with the box. Children’s latency to interact with the box was positively related with the frequency of displacement activities before the interaction. However, the frequency of displacement activities increased progressively as long as the children were able to inhibit the interaction with the musical box. Furthermore, frequency of displacement activities during the first minute of test did not predict the ability of children to inhibit the interaction with the box. These results suggest displacement activities represent a functionless byproduct of motivational conflict rather than a strategy children use to inhibit a response to an attractive stimulus.
Do displacement activities help preschool children to wait more in a delay of maintenance task? / Pecora, Giulia; Bellagamba, Francesca; Schino, Gabriele; E., Addessi. - (2012). (Intervento presentato al convegno CogEvo, Rovereto Workshop on Cognition and Evolution tenutosi a Rovereto nel Giugno).