February 6th Confirmation of candidature - Aisling Mulvihill

UQ research Masters and PhD students progress through a series of milestones. The confirmation process the first of these.

Monday February 6th 2017 9:30-11.00am

Room 24-302 St Lucia Campus

Self-Directed Speech and Higher Order Thinking in Typically Developing and Developmentally At Risk Preschoolers

Self-directed speech (SDS) is speech or verbal thought that is directed to oneself in overt (i.e. out-loud), covert (i.e. whispers, lip- movements) or internalised (i.e. inner speech) forms. SDS is critical to self-regulation as it provides a means through which verbally mediated thought can guide thinking and behavior (Fernyhough, 2010; Winsler, 2009; Vygotsky, 1934/1962). The development of SDS is recognised as a universal and significant achievement in the preschool years, and is a skill that persists into adulthood as an important motivational and regulatory tool (Alderson-Day & Fernyhough, 2015). Previous research has provided evidence for interruption in the use and development of SDS in neurodevelopmental disorders. These alterations in the development of SDS are proposed to interfere with higher order cognition and consequently with self-regulatory ability. However, despite suggestion that SDS serves as a mediator of higher order cognition, little is known about how it operates, or what gives rise to its impairment.

The aim of the proposed body of research is to better understand the development of SDS in typically developing and developmentally ‘at risk’ preschool-aged children, and to investigate the relationship between SDS and higher-order cognition in these children. I propose three studies:  

Study 1. In my first study I will implement a systematic review methodology to characterise current knowledge regarding SDS in developmentally vulnerable populations in childhood, specifically children with specific language impairments, autism spectrum disorder, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The systematic review provides a robust literary review methodology that synthesises key findings, outlines patterns and identifies gaps to address in future research.

Study 2 will employ an individual differences approach to delineate the developmental significance between aspects of higher order cognition (namely, social processing, executive control, and language) and SDS use in typically developing and developmentally ‘at risk’ preschoolers while concomitantly investigating the influence of developmental vulnerability on SDS use. Specifically I will employ comprehensive cognitive profiling of individual differences in cognitive ability and investigate interactions with SDS use.

Study 3 will examine the relationship between deployed cognitive effort, task related performance and the use of SDS in 5 year old children with and without ASD. I will employ puillometry (i.e. measure of pupillary dilation) as a covert index of cognitive effort whilst children engage in a computerised task of incremental difficulty.

The proposed research holds potential to extend upon current research in the field and inform the theoretical understanding of SDS as a mediator of higher order thinking integral to self-regulation. Furthermore, clearer insights into SDS use in developmentally vulnerable populations may better inform and guide intervention efforts.

Principal Advisor


Professor Annemaree Carroll

Other advisor/s


Associate Professor Paul Dux (Psychology)
Dr Natasha Matthews (Psychology)

Panel Chair


 Professor Robyn Gillies (School of Education)

Dr Nicole Nelson (School of Psychology)


Other panel member/s


 Dr Rhonda Farag​her (School of Education)




Monday February 6th 2017






24-302 St Lucia Campus