Hidden talents in context: Cognitive performance with abstract versus ecological stimuli among adversity-exposed youth.

Ethan S. Young, Willem E. Frankenhuis, Danielle J. DelPriore, & Bruce J. Ellis

  • Adversity-exposed youth tend to score lower on cognitive tests. However, the hidden talents approach proposes some abilities are enhanced by adversity, especially under ecologically relevant conditions. Two versions of an attention shifting and working memory updating task—one abstract, one ecological—were administered to 618 youth (Mage = 13.62, SDage = 0.81; 48.22% female; 64.56% White). Measures of environmental unpredictability, violence, and poverty were collected to test adversity × task version interactions. There were no interactions for attention shifting. For working memory updating, youth exposed to violence and poverty scored lower than their peers with abstract stimuli but equally well with ecological stimuli. These results are striking compared to contemporary developmental science, which often reports lowered performance among adversity-exposed youth.

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