The Hearts & Flower Test is a hybrid task combining element of a spatial Stroop task and task switching (Wright & Diamond, 2014). In the first block (congruent condition), a heart is displayed either on the left or right side of the monitor. Subjects must respond in line with the location where the heart is displayed. In a second block (incongruent), subjects see a flower instead of a heart and must respond by pressing the key opposite to the location where the flower is displayed. Those two blocks measure baseline performance for classic choice reaction to location, and Stroop-like conditions where stimuli characteristics (in this case not color, but location) interfere with the choice reaction task of pressing the left or right key.

The third block is introducing a task switching task. Subjects must apply a congruent mapping or a incongruent mappping rule depending on which stimulus (heart vs. flower) is displayed. For heart, the response key corresponding to the location of the heart must be pressed. For flower, the key on the opposite side must be pressed. This task requires the subject to actively switch rules depending on which stimulus is displayed and as such contains an executive component.

With this experimental design, the principle of additive factor logic can be applied. The effect of inhibition can be measured by subtracting the average response latency in the congruent block (heart) from the average response latency in the incongruent block (flower). And the effect of task switching based on stimulus identity can be estimated by comparing the performance of block 3 against the average performance in block 1 and 2.

The Hearts and Flower test is measuring different cognitive factors with an elegant design which keeps the stimulus conditions constant but only varying the cognitive functions based on instructions. As such it is an attractive test for brain imaging. Because of the simple instructions this test is also widely used to study age related cognitive performance at childhood.  It turns out that adults can handle the incongruent case better than children because they can accommodate to the new rule more effectively.  But the task switching requires a working memory to remember the rule, and the cognitive flexibility to switch rules. This is demanding for subjects of any age.

 

 

Publications

Camerota, M., Willoughby, M. T., & Blair, C. B. (2019). Speed and accuracy on the Hearts and Flowers task interact to predict child outcomes. Psychological Assessment, 31(8), 995–1005. https://doi.org/10.1037/pas0000725

Rosas R, Espinoza V, Porflitt F and Ceric F (2019) Executive Functions Can Be Improved in Preschoolers Through Systematic Playing in Educational Settings: Evidence From a Longitudinal Study. Front. Psychol. 10:2024. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02024

Wright, A., and Diamond, A. (2014). An effect of inhibitory load in children while keeping working memory load constant. Front. Psychol. 5:213. doi: 10.3389/ fpsyg.2014.00213

; to run this script go to www.cognitionlib.com and copy & paste this content into the online editor

PARAMETER STIMTIME 2000 ; or 750 for children older than 7

COLOR White R 100 100 100
COLOR Black R 0 0 0
COLOR Gray R 70 70 70
COLOR Yellow C 60 100 50

SCREENCOLOR Black White
SCREENAREA 200 150
SETSYNC 1

FONT Big Arial 8
FONT Std Arial 5 1.3
FONT Small Arial 4

PICTURE Heart G
http://try.cognitionlab.com/media/red_heart.png 30

PICTURE Flower G
http://try.cognitionlab.com/media/red_flower.png 30

PICTURE Frame D 1
RECT 0,0 180 60
STROKE 3 black

PICTURE Circle D 1
CIRCLE 0,0 10
FILL –

SET Circles V Circle

PICTURE FixPoint D 1
Move -2.5,0
Line 2.5,0
Move 0,-2.5
Line 0,2.5
Stroke 0.5 black

PICTURE Pause T
Take a short break !

PICTURE Press T
When ready, press CONTINUE

PICTURE Practice T
Use the next trials to practice the task

Try to respond as quick as possible
but avoid errors.

PICTURE Valid T
We will now begin with the test block !

Try to respond as quick as possible
but avoid errors.

PICTURE Left T
LEFT
PICTURE Continue T
CONTINUE
PICTURE Right T
RIGHT

PICTURE Correct T
Correct
PICTURE Wrong T
Wrong Key!
PICTURE Faster T
Respond faster !

PICTURE Title T
Hearts & Flowers

PICTURE X N
PICTURE M N
PICTURE Space N

PICTURE HowTo T
Touch one of the buttons below
or press the following keys:

X for Left
M for Right

SPACE for continue

PICTURE Intro T
In this test you will see
a red heart or a red flower
on the left or right side
within this frame.

PICTURE Inst_Cong T
When you see a heart,
press the key which is on
the same side as the heart

PICTURE Inst_InCong T
When you see a flower,
press the key which is on
the opposite side as the flower

PICTURE Inst_Mixed T
In the next block you will see
hearts and flowers.

Remember the rules:
Heart: Press key on same side
Flower: Press key on opposite side

 

 

POSITION Center P 0, -20
POSITION Left P -60, -20
POSITION Right P 60, -20
POSITION MsgPos P 0,-20
POSITION PromptPos P 0,20
POSITION TouchPos P -60,40 0,40 60,40
POSITION LabelPos P -60,55 0,55 60,55
POSITION TitlePos P 0, -65

 

KEY ResKeys X M
KEY TouchKeys X SPACE M

TRIAL Overlay
SF Std
SP Frame Center
SP Circle TouchPos 1 0 0 ?
SP Circle TouchPos 3 0 0 *1
SF Small
SP Left LabelPos 1
SP Right LabelPos 3
SP X TouchPos 1 0 0 White
SP M TouchPos 3 0 0 White

TRIAL Init
TL TouchPos TouchKeys 10

TRIAL StartBlock
CS 2000
SO Overlay Black

TRIAL ShowInst
SO Overlay Gray
SF Big
SP Title TitlePos 1
&SF Small
&SP Circle TouchPos 2 0 0 Black
&SP Continue LabelPos 2 0 0 Black
&SP Space TouchPos 2 0 0 White
&SF Std
&SP ? MsgPos
&SF Small
&SP ? PromptPos
WK Space
SP Circle TouchPos 2 500 0 Yellow
SF Std

TRIAL TrainStim
CS 500
SP FixPoint Center 1 500
CS 500
RK ResKeys
+SP ?=Stim ?=Pos 1 STIMTIME 1
OK
X: SP Circle TouchPos 1 0 0 Yellow
M: SP Circle TouchPos 3 0 0 Yellow
+FB ?=CKey
1: SP Wrong PromptPos 1 1500
2: CS 500
3: SP Faster PromptPos 1 1500
CS 500

TRIAL ShowStim
CS 500
SP FixPoint Center 1 500
CS 500
RK ResKeys
+SP ?=Stim ?=Pos 1 STIMTIME 1
FB ?=CKey
OK
X: SP Circle TouchPos 1 500 0 Yellow
M: SP Circle TouchPos 3 500 0 Yellow

; the Train Cong and InCong blocks list same 2 trials twice, so that the DROPOUT mode can work on 4 trials

BLOCK Train_Cong 4
Train: 1 TrainStim Heart Left X
Train: 1 TrainStim Heart Right M
Train: 1 TrainStim Heart Left X
Train: 1 TrainStim Heart Right M

BLOCK Cong 2
Single: 1 ShowStim Heart Left X
Single: 1 ShowStim Heart Right M

BLOCK Train_InCong 4
Train: 1 TrainStim Flower Left M
Train: 1 TrainStim Flower Right X
Train: 1 TrainStim Flower Left M
Train: 1 TrainStim Flower Right X

BLOCK InCong 2
Single: 1 ShowStim Flower Left M
Single: 1 ShowStim Flower Right X

BLOCK Mixed 4
Mixed: 1 ShowStim Heart Left X
Mixed: 1 ShowStim Heart Right M
Mixed: 1 ShowStim Flower Left M
Mixed: 1 ShowStim Flower Right X

SESSION Hearts and Flowers
RUNTRIAL Init

RUNTRIAL ShowInst HowTo Press
RUNTRIAL ShowInst Intro Press
RUNTRIAL ShowInst Inst_Cong Press
RUNTRIAL ShowInst Practice Press

RUNTRIAL StartBlock
DROPOUT 1 1
RUNBLOCKW Train_Cong 4 1

RUNTRIAL ShowInst Valid Press

RUNTRIAL StartBlock
RUNBLOCK Cong 12 3

RUNTRIAL ShowInst Pause Press
RUNTRIAL ShowInst Inst_InCong Press
RUNTRIAL ShowInst Practice Press

RUNTRIAL StartBlock
DROPOUT 1 1
RUNBLOCKW Train_InCong 4 1

RUNTRIAL ShowInst Valid Press

RUNTRIAL StartBlock
RUNBLOCK InCong 12 3

RUNTRIAL ShowInst Pause Press
RUNTRIAL ShowInst Valid Press

RUNTRIAL StartBlock
RUNBLOCKW Mixed 1 1
RUNBLOCK Mixed 32