Developmental changes in attention: The effects of endogenous cueing and of distractors

Melissa C. Goldberg, Daphne Maurer, Terri L. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


We used two reaction time tasks to examine age differences in the ability to use an endogenous cue to shift attention covertly and to ignore distractors. In Experiment 1, 8-year-olds, 10-year-olds and adults (n = 24 per age) were asked to push a button as soon as they detected a target that was presented in a cued, miscued or non-cued peripheral location at 100, 400 or 800 ms after the appearance of a central cue. In Experiment 2, 10-year-olds and adults (n = 24 per age) were asked to indicate which of two shapes appeared in the periphery 400 ms after a central cue, with those shapes surrounded by compatible or incompatible distractors. Unlike previous studies, the data were corrected for a reaction time bias that can inflate the apparent effect of cueing. Children were slower and more variable than adults overall. However, there were no age differences in the effects of the cues in either experiment: at all ages, the speed of responding was increased similarly by correct cueing and slowed similarly by incorrect cueing. Thus, under these conditions, the ability to use endogenous cues to orient covertly to the periphery is already adult-like by 8-10 years of age, although there may be subsequent changes in the consistency of responding. In Experiment 2, 10-year-olds were slowed more than adults by incompatible distractors. Thus, the ability to ignore distracting information is not adult-like even by 10 years of age. The findings suggest different rates of development for the ability to shift attention following an endogenous cue and for the ability to filter out irrelevant information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-219
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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