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Brain Lang. 2004 Apr;89(1):192-202.

Verbal fluency output in children aged 7-16 as a function of the production criterion: qualitative analysis of clustering, switching processes, and semantic network exploitation.

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Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives EA 487, Université Victor Ségalen Bordeaux 2, 146 rue Léo Saignat, 33076 Bordeaux cedex, France.


Developmental changes in children's verbal fluency were explored in this study. One hundred and forty children aged from 7 to 16 completed four verbal fluency tasks, each with a different the production criterion (letter, sound, semantic, and free). The age differences were analyzed both in terms of number of words produced, and clustering, switching, and semantic network exploration. Analysis of the number of words produced showed a larger difference between the 7-8- and the 9-10-year-olds in semantic than in letter fluency, but this difference gradually disappeared with increasing age for semantic fluency while remaining constant for letter fluency. In letter fluency production, age modified both the number of switches and clusters formed whereas in semantic fluency tasks, only cluster size changed with age. Concerning the semantic network exploration indicators derived from the supermarket fluency task, the number of categories sampled increased from 11 to 12 years, but efficient semantic exploitation occurred only after the age of 13-14 years. These results are discussed in terms of the development of strategic retrieval components and categorical knowledge.

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