This study investigated the development of the flexible use of categorization rules based on thematic or taxonomic relations in 5- to 10-year-old children and adults. The developmental paths of two components of flexibility are described: Maintenance of a categorical relation and switching between two relations. Conceptual representations have been manipulated in confronting the controlled use of a thematic vs. a taxonomic relation. Executive demands were graduated across three successive phases requiring picture matching in different conflicting contexts. Data revealed the interplay between conceptual and executive aspects. Controlled use was achieved earlier for a thematic categorization rule than for a taxonomic rule, even if participants did recognize both types of pictures-matchings. Results are discussed within two alternative, though compatible, frameworks accounting for the influence of conceptual representations on relational flexibility.
KEYWORDS: flexibility, control, semantic categories.