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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Language- and spatially-mediated attention in toddlers

  • Author(s): Sucevic, Jelena;
  • Plunkett, Kim
  • et al.

Selective attention involves attending to task-relevant information and inhibiting task-irrelevant information. While spatial priming is known to efficiently shape selective attention, the nature of language-mediated effects on selective attention is not well-understood, particularly in young toddlers. We com- pare the impact of language-mediated and spatially-mediated attention in an eye-tracking paradigm in which two objects are presented in one of four possible locations and one of the objects is highlighted. The impact of labelling on attention orienting during a prime phase was tested in a subsequent probe phase, where either the identity, location or both were manipulated, and compared to the impact of spatial priming. To elucidate the role of development on these effects, the study was conducted with 18- and 26-month-old toddlers. The results revealed that both language-mediated and spatially-mediated priming lead to attention orienting during the probe phase: at- tended information during the prime phase facilitates attention during the probe phase while ignored features are inhibited. However, in contrast to spatially-mediated attention during the prime phase, language-mediated attention can override these inhibitory effects. The impact of language on overcoming inhibitory effects is particularly noteworthy in the older age group.

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