Executive functions help a person to organise their thoughts. There are slightly different definitions of what executive function is. One well known contempory author on the topic is Sabine Doebel with whom PsyToolkit worked together to create an online version of the Dimensional Change Card Sort task (Doebel, Stucke, & Stoet, 2021). Dr. Doebel is well know for her work on the the study of children’s executive function (Doebel, 2020).

About this implementation

The DCCS is a "card" sorting task. In the task, children see a top card and two bottom cards. They need to match one of the bottom cards to the top card according to different rules in different halves of the experiment. The main aim of the DCCS is to measure how difficult it is to switch from the first to the second task. In adults, a similar cognitive ability can be measured with, for example, the task switching paradigm.

PsyToolkit lists different types of task-switching paradigms. Check it out in the overview of the experiment library.

In this experiment designed for children as young as three years old, there is a lot of material spent on the explanation for the parents and participants.

It starts with an introduction where information is increasingly shown on a screen with underlying audio. This greatly helps young participants who will do this task with their parents.

There are two blocks simply for learning to press the correct keyboard button. There are also practise trials.

Run the demo

In this demo, you will get very detailed instructions. You need a keyboard.

Data output file

In PsyToolkit, the data output file is simply a textfile. The save line of the PsyToolkit experiment script determines what is being saved in the data output file. Typically, for each experimental trial, you would have exactly one line in your text file, and each number/word on that line gives you the information you need for your data analysis, such as the condition, response speed, and whether an error was made.

Meaning of the columns in the output datafile. For each trial (there are 18 training trials and 225 "real" trials), there is one line with 6 numbers (columns).

You need this information for your data analysis.

Colum Meaning


The trial number


The name of the block


The condition used from the conditions table


The reaction time


The status (1=correct, 2=wrong, 3=timeout)


If you have a PsyToolkit account, you can upload the zipfile directly to your PsyToolkit account. Watch a video on how to do that. If you want to upload the zipfile into your PsyToolkit account, make sure the file is not automatically uncompressed (some browsers, especially Mac Safari, by default uncompress zip files). Read here how to easily deal with this.

Further reading

  • Doebel, S., Stucke, N., Stoet, G. (2022). Why is Children’s Time in Less-Structured Activities Associated with Executive Function? A Study of Children at Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Developmental Science, e13226. Link to publisher.

  • Doebel, S. (2020). Rethinking Executive Function and Its Development. Perspectives on Psychological Science. Open access link.