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The Development of Selective Attention under Distracting Conditions

Henry Zukier and John William Hagen
Child Development
Vol. 49, No. 3 (Sep., 1978), pp. 870-873
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1128259
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1128259
Page Count: 4
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The Development of Selective Attention under Distracting Conditions
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Abstract

Developmental changes in children's selective attention to task-relevant and task-irrelevant information with and without distraction were studied. 60 children at each of 2 age levels (8 and 11 years old) performed a serial position recall task either in a control condition or under visual or auditory distraction. Children were tested for recall of task-relevant and task-irrelevant information. In a second series, the procedure was repeated, and now children were set for the incidental information as well. Performance on the central task was better for the older than for the younger children in the control condition only, especially at the primacy positions. When a distractor was introduced, no age differences in performance occurred. Recall of incidental information improved on the second trial at both age levels but more so for the older children. Distractors enhanced recall of incidental information at both age levels and produced differential effects as a function of their mode of presentation. The results indicated that older children make greater use than do younger children of strategies that enable them to (a) focus on the relevant features of the task at the expense of extraneous information and (b) deploy their selective attention with greater efficiency and flexibility. The findings also suggest that distractors have specific effects on performance that interact with age as well as task.

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