Be there on time: Spatial-temporal regularities guide young children's attention in dynamic environments.
Shalev N., Boettcher S., Wilkinson H., Scerif G., Nobre AC.
Children's ability to benefit from spatiotemporal regularities to detect goal-relevant targets was tested in a dynamic, extended context. Young adults and children (from a low-deprivation area school in the United Kingdom; N = 80; 5-6 years; 39 female; ethics approval did not permit individual-level race/ethnicity surveying) completed a dynamic visual-search task. Targets and distractors faded in and out of a display over seconds. Half of the targets appeared at predictable times and locations. Search performance in children was poorer overall. Nevertheless, they benefitted equivalently from spatiotemporal regularities, detecting more predictable than unpredictable targets. Children's benefits from predictions correlated positively with their attention. The study brings ecological validity to the study of attentional guidance in children, revealing striking behavioral benefits of dynamic experience-based predictions.