Children aged 4.5, 7, or 11 years received an experimental session in which a contingency was placed on button-press duration. Each discrete trial was followed by a brief verbal probe asking a question about the contingency requirement. Other groups of children received an identical task followed by a postexperimental interview. Level of adaptation to the duration contingency tended to increase with age in subjects receiving posttrial verbal probes, but not for those who were interviewed. Eleven-year-olds in the verbal probe condition showed a strong correlation between accurate temporal differentiation and number of verbalizations relating to response duration or timing. The younger subjects, with one exception, showed no association between timing-related verbalizations (which were almost totally absent) and response duration differentiation. This developmental difference occurred even though the younger subjects verbalized after almost every trial. The results suggest that although 11-year-old children apparently produce rule-governed behavior under verbal control as adults do, the behavior of younger children may be controlled directly by reinforcement contingencies even when their verbal repertoires are highly developed
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