Conducting Event-Related Potential (ERP) Research With Young Children: A Review of Components, Special Considerations, and Recommendations for Research on Cognition and Emotion


Abstract. There has been an unprecedented increase in the number of research studies employing event-related potential (ERP) techniques to examine dynamic and rapidly occurring neural processes with children during the preschool and early childhood years. Despite this, there has been relatively little discussion of the methodological and procedural differences that exist for studies of young children versus older children and adults. That is, reviewers, editors, and consumers of this work often expect developmental studies to simply apply adult techniques and procedures to younger samples. Procedurally, this creates unrealistic expectations for research paradigms, data collection, and data reduction and analyses. Scientifically, this leads to inappropriate measures and methods that hinder drawing conclusions and advancing theory. Based on ERP work with preschoolers and young children from 10 laboratories across North America, we present a summary of the most common ERP components under study in the area of emotion and cognition in young children along with 13 realistic expectations for data collection and loss, laboratory procedures and paradigms, data processing, ERP averaging, and typical challenges for conducting this type of work. This work is intended to supplement previous guidelines for work with adults and offer insights to aid researchers, reviewers, and editors in the design and evaluation of developmental research using ERPs. Here we make recommendations for researchers who plan to conduct or who are conducting ERP studies in children between ages 2 and 12 years, focusing on studies of toddlers and preschoolers. Recommendations are based on both data and our cumulative experience and include guidelines for laboratory setup, equipment and recording settings, task design, and data processing.


This version of the article may not completely replicate the final authoritative version published in Journal of Psychophysiology at 10.1027/0269-8803/a000243. It is not the version of record and is therefore not suitable for citation. Please do not copy or cite without the permission of the author(s).


event related potential


Brooker, R. J., Bates, J. E., Buss, K. A., Canen, M. J., Dennis-Tiwary, T. A., Gatzke-Kopp, L. M., ... & Schmidt, L. A. (2020). Conducting event-related potential (ERP) research with young children: A review of components, special considerations, and recommendations for research on cognition and emotion. Journal of psychophysiology, 34(3), 137.
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