Looking and Visual Attention: Overview and Developmental Framework

Holly Alliger Ruff and Mary Klevjord Rothbart

in Attention in Early Development

Published in print May 2001 | ISBN: 9780195136326
Published online April 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199894031 | DOI:
Looking and Visual Attention: Overview and Developmental Framework

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This chapter explores the development of a first attention or orienting/investigative system and a second system that underlies goal-oriented behaviour and involves higher-level inhibitory processes. Using patterns of looking as the main measure, it identifies several transition periods in the first few years. Between 2 and 3 months, infants show less compulsory attention and more interest in novelty and exploration as the first attention system emerges. Between 9 and 12 months of age, children become more focused in their attention and more intentional in their behaviour, signalling the emergence of the second attention system. From 18 to 24 months, children become increasingly able to direct their attention voluntarily and to plan ahead — further development of the second system. This development continues and is consolidated in the pre-school years.

Keywords: duration of looking; developmental transitions; orienting; exploring; intentionality; inhibition; control of attention; executive control

Chapter.  8825 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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