Trajectories of Attentional Development: An Exploration With the Master Activation Map Model

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The developmental trajectories of several attention components, such as orienting, inhibition, and the guidance of selection by relevance (i.e., advance knowledge relevant to the task) were investigated in 498 participants (ages 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 20). The paradigm was based on Michael et al.'s (2006) master activation map model and consisted of 3 visual search tasks presented in an intrasubject Latin square design and differing in terms of the probability with which a salient signal was associated with the target or a distractor. The results suggest that, whereas computations of salience were already proficient at age 7, and the use of advance knowledge was efficient throughout childhood, albeit without reaching adult levels, the integration of salience and relevance reached its asymptotic level at age 8. Although moving and engaging attention was proficient at age 7, disengaging attention started to improve at age 9, reaching its adult level at age 11. As regards inhibition of salient distractors, the authors found no developmental pattern before adulthood, regardless of whether advance knowledge was available about the distractor or not, although all participants were able to use such knowledge to reduce overall interference. Finally, some results suggest that the control of resources for strengthening inhibition becomes efficient between ages 9 and 10. The developmental trajectories were compared with the existing literature and discussed.

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