Habituation of attention to irrelevant stimuli in elementary school children

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23 Scopus citations


The present paper proposes that habituation of attention to irrelevant information can account for within-task improvement in selective attention. According to this hypothesis, children who are preexposed to stimuli that will later be irrelevant in a speeded classification task will experience less interference than children not given the opportunity to habituate. Each of 240 elementary school children representing two age levels served in one of three experimental conditions. All children did a "preexposure" task; however, in only one condition were they exposed to the irrelevant stimuli from speeded classification. The other groups saw either different background stimuli or no background stimuli. The speeded classification task followed in which times to sort with and without irrelevant stimuli were compared. Although interference from irrelevant stimuli varied with age, results for both ages supported the habituation hypothesis. The findings have implications for concepts of attentional development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-197
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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