October 2020
Volume 20, Issue 11
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   October 2020
Split foci of attention in middle childhood
Author Affiliations
  • Tashauna Blankenship
    Boston University
  • Roger Strong
    Boston University
  • Melissa Kibbe
    Harvard University
Journal of Vision October 2020, Vol.20, 838. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.838
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      Tashauna Blankenship, Roger Strong, Melissa Kibbe; Split foci of attention in middle childhood. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):838. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.838.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Adults can deploy attention to two locations without allocating it to the intervening space, consistent with multiple foci of attention (Awh & Pashler, 2000). Although children can track multiple objects simultaneously (Blankenship, Strong, & Kibbe, 2018), it is unknown whether children accomplish this by splitting their attention across noncontiguous locations, or instead by diffusely spreading their attention. We tested 25 6-8-year-old children (M=7.30, SD=.95) using a task where attended items were separated by a distractor (similar to Awh and Pashler, 2000). On each trial, children viewed 6 masks (750 ms), two of which were cued (750 ms); the cued masks were always separated by one uncued mask. The masks were then replaced by an array of characters (250 ms), two of which were numbers. The characters were then masked again (100 ms), and then one of the masks was probed. Children had to report the number that had appeared at the probed location. On 80% of trials, one of the two cued locations was probed (valid trials). On the other 20% of trials, an uncued location was probed (invalid trials). For invalid trials, the probed location was either positioned between the two cued locations or outside of the cued locations. If children spread their attention diffusely between the two cued locations, rather than splitting their attention, then they should be more likely to correctly identify numbers when invalid probes appeared between cued locations versus outside cued locations. Children performed better on valid versus invalid trials (F(2,48)=42.38, p<.001; ╬Ěp2=.64), suggesting that they indeed deployed attention to the two cued locations. For invalid trials, however, there was no difference in performance for probes appearing between the cued locations versus outside the cued locations (p=.41). These findings suggest that the ability to split attention to noncontiguous locations is present by middle childhood.


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