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Endogenous control is insufficient for preventing attentional capture in children and adults

Hayre, Rumandeep K.; Cragg, Lucy; Allen, Harriet A.

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Rumandeep K. Hayre

Professor of Developmental Psychology

Professor of Lifespan Psychology


Adults are known to have developed the ability to selectively focus their attention in a goal-driven (endogenous) manner but it is less clear at what stage in development (5-6 & 9-11 years) children can endogenously control their attention and whether they behave similarly to adults when managing distractions. In this study we administered a child-adapted cued visual search task to three age-groups: five- to six-year-olds (N = 45), nine- to eleven-year-olds (N = 42) and adults (N = 42). Participants were provided with a cue which either guided their attention towards or away from an upcoming target. On some trials, a singleton distracter was presented which participants needed to ignore. Participants completed three conditions where the cues were: 1) usually helpful (High Predictive), 2) usually unhelpful (Low Predictive) and 3) never helpful (Baseline) in guiding attention towards the target. We found that endogenous cue-utilisation develops with increasing age. Overall, nine- to eleven-year-olds and adults, but not five- to six-year-olds, utilised the endogenous cues in the High Predictive condition. However, all age-groups were unable to ignore the singleton distracter even when using endogenous control. Moreover, we found better maintenance ability was related to poorer inhibition ability in early-childhood, but these skills were no longer related further on in development. We conclude that overall endogenous control is still developing in early-childhood, but an adult-like form of this skill has been acquired by mid-childhood. Furthermore, endogenous cue-utilisation may be insufficient for preventing attentional capture in both children and adults.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 5, 2022
Online Publication Date Jun 17, 2022
Publication Date 2022-08
Deposit Date May 13, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 21, 2022
Journal Acta Psychologica
Print ISSN 0001-6918
Electronic ISSN 1873-6297
Publisher Elsevier BV
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 228
Article Number 103611
Keywords Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous); Developmental and Educational Psychology; Experimental and Cognitive Psychology; General Medicine
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