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Valeria Reis, Ronald Ranvaud, Luiz Henrique Canto-Pereira; Spatial distribution of visual attention during childhood. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):416. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/8.6.416.
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In recent years, there has been a strong body of evidence indicating that observers can split the spotlight of attention towards noncontiguous spatially separated areas (Canto-Pereira & Ranvaud, 2005). This study was aimed to investigate how children allocate their attentional resources by measuring reaction times under different experimental conditions. Participants were children aged 8, 10 and 12 years (n=12 per age) divided in different groups according to age. There were two different experimental conditions. In experiment I participants were asked to direct their attention towards a square frame subtending 4° of visual angle located in the center of the screen. In experiment II participants were instructed to attend, simultaneously, two square frames subtending 4° of visual located 10° to the right and left of the center of the screen. The task was to respond (key presses) to the onset of a target, a white dot subtending 0.2° of visual angle presented at 154 different positions, while always fixating a small cross in the center of the visual field. Stimulus duration was brief (100ms) to avoid eye movements and concomitant attentional shifts. Experiments were carried out in a counterbalanced way. Our results confirm the findings of Surnina & Lebedeva (2002), participants in the older group showed an increase in performance (faster reaction times and lower error rates). In experiment I, as expected, reaction times were faster in the attended region (central square frame). However, in experiment II (divided attention condition) participants were not able to disengage attention from fixation. These results suggest that children by 12 years of age have not reached the ability to divide attention as adults.
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