Poster E4, Monday, March 26, 2:30-4:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Limited attention facilitates learning of peripheral information in children
Michael Paul Dubois1, Theresa Pham1,2, Danielle Lim1, Amy Finn1; 1University of Toronto, 2University of Western Ontario
Adults are capable of narrowing their attention and filtering extraneous information to achieve particular tasks. Usually, this skill is highly useful, however, it can mean that when attending to particular task demands, adults are “blind” to patterns that are peripheral to those demands. In the present experiment, we explore whether children, who have limited filtering abilities (Finn, in preparation; Plebanek & Sloutsky, 2017) are less “blind” to peripheral information. Additionally, we explore whether this “blindness” occurs in adults and children when, unbeknownst to participants, the peripheral information can directly impact task performance. We therefore tested adults and children (ages 5-9), using a correlated flanker paradigm. Participants saw one of two target stimuli, and were tasked with indicating as quickly as possible which target appeared. On each trial, the target had a pair of other flanking stimuli, but participants were told to only respond to the targets. Unbeknownst to participants, some flankers were highly correlated with a particular target (consistent), while rarely appearing with the other target (inconsistent), or equally likely to appear with each target (neutral). We found that young children (ages 5-7) were sensitive to peripheral information, showing reduced reaction times for consistent trials, and increased reaction times for inconsistent trials. Conversely, adults and older children did not differ in reaction time for each of the trial types. These data suggest that children are less capable of restricting their attention to target information, and what they learn about the periphery can consequently impact task performance, for better and worse.
Topic Area: ATTENTION: Development & aging