Training Self and Emotion Regulation: Neurobiological Foundations and Behavioral Consequences
This project investigates the impact of two cognitive interventions on children’s ability to self-regulate and control emotions.
Self and emotion regulation are basic human abilities that play a decisive role for individuals’ success in life. Lack of self-regulation is associated with impulsivity, inability to focus attention, difficulties to delay current rewards in exchange for larger future rewards, low savings rates, low compliance with social norms, high calorie intake, smoking and other unhealthy behaviors.
Recent studies indicate that children who are high in self-regulation abilities in early and middle childhood do persistently better later in their life: they are wealthier, healthier, and less likely to be involved in antisocial activities.
As the evidence suggests that cognitive training (e.g. working memory, self-regulatory strategies) can improve motivational skills in general and self-control in particular, whether self-control and time preferences can be improved in a lasting way by educational interventions during childhood has great practical relevance and could be an important step forward in mitigating fundamental socioeconomic and educational problems.
To further investigate this, primary school-aged children will undergo a working memory training and a training using mental contrasting with intentions implementation. We will then assess whether there are spillover effects of improved regulation on children’s prosocial and risk taking behavior, their ability to delay gratification, to exhibit lower discount rates for future rewards and on academic performance.
A crucial component of this project is the study of the neurobiological consequences of training self-regulation and the demographic, psychological and neurobiological factors that are associated with individual differences in training success. To do so, we will combine methods and knowledge from psychology, behavioral and experimental economics, neuroeconomics, and social neuroscience.