Relevance of a neurophysiological marker of attention allocation for children's learning-related behaviors and academic performance

Cynthia J. Willner, Lisa M. Gatzke-Kopp, Karen L. Bierman, Mark T. Greenberg, Sidney J. Segalowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Learning-related behaviors are important for school success. Socioeconomic disadvantage confers risk for less adaptive learning-related behaviors at school entry, yet substantial variability in school readiness exists within socioeconomically disadvantaged populations. Investigation of neurophysiological systems associated with learning-related behaviors in high-risk populations could illuminate resilience processes. This study examined the relevance of a neurophysiological measure of controlled attention allocation, amplitude of the P3b event-related potential, for learning-related behaviors and academic performance in a sample of socioeconomically disadvantaged kindergarteners. The sample consisted of 239 children from an urban, low-income community, approximately half of whom exhibited behavior problems at school entry (45% aggressive/oppositional; 64% male; 69% African American, 21% Hispanic). Results revealed that higher P3b amplitudes to target stimuli in a go/no-go task were associated with more adaptive learning-related behaviors in kindergarten. Furthermore, children's learning-related behaviors in kindergarten mediated a positive indirect effect of P3b amplitude on growth in academic performance from kindergarten to 1st grade. Given that P3b amplitude reflects attention allocation processes, these findings build on the scientific justification for interventions targeting young children's attention skills in order to promote effective learning-related behaviors and academic achievement within socioeconomically disadvantaged populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1148-1162
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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