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Driven from distraction: How infants respond to parents' attempts to elicit and re-direct their attention


This experiment examined how parents' verbal and non-verbal behavioral cues cause infants to shift and share attention within environments where many objects compete for infants' attention. Fifteen- and 21-month-old infants played with toys while their parent periodically shifted attention to a distal object within a larger array. Parents' attention-shifts were indicated by a change in direction of gaze, a pointing gesture, and/or verbalizations. Verbalizations were either attention-eliciting or attention-directing. In some trials parents covered their eyes to occlude line-of-gaze. Both ages seldom followed simple gaze shifts, but frequently followed gaze with-points or gaze-with-directing verbalizations. Attention-eliciting verbalizations increased infants' looks to the parent. Gaze occlusion reduced infants' responses to directing verbalizations. Responses to eliciting verbalizations increased with age. Infant receptive vocabulary did not predict attention-sharing, even when parents named objects (i.e., directing verbalizations). Implications for development of attention-sharing, language and understanding of visual attention are discussed. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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