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Development of Sustained Selective Attention During the Preschool Years: Evidence from a New Object Tracking Task

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Anna Fisher, Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University

Sustained selective attention is a crucial component of many higher-order cognitive processes; yet there is little research into the mechanisms of this ability early in development. One of the challenges in investigating mechanisms of sustained selective attention in young children is lack of appropriate experimental paradigms. This paper reports findings from a novel paradigm designed to investigate mechanisms of sustained selective attention in young children - the Object Tracking task. Results of two experiments with three- to five-year-old children provided support to the notion that development of the endogenous component of selective sustained attention lags behind the development of the exogenous component of this process. Importantly, the Object Tracking paradigm allowed investigating both of these components within the same task, thereby making it possible to attribute changes in performance to different mechanisms of attention control rather than to differences in the level of motivation and engagement in different tasks.

Fisher Presentation Slides (PDF - 417 KB)

Biosketch for Anna Fisher, Ph.D.

Dr. Anna Fisher received her B.A. in preschool psychology and education in 1999 from Moscow Pedagogical State University, M.A. in early childhood education in 2002, and Ph.D. in cognitive psychology in 2005 from The Ohio State University. She has been working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University since 2006. Her primary research focus is mechanisms of learning and generalization in preschool and elementary school children. Her recent interest and research on the development of selective sustained attention is motivated by her desire to understand how learning is related to certain components of executive function.

Return to Executive Function in Preschool Children: Current Knowledge and Research Opportunities - Agenda page.

Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 11/30/2012
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