Focused Visual Attention and Resistance to Distraction

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:
Focused Visual Attention and Resistance to Distraction

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An important function of attention is the ability to narrow selectivity when appropriate and to redirect energy to the selected activity. Motivation and inhibitory processes are central to this ability, which we call focused attention. In the first year, when the orienting/investigative system is dominant, it is observed mainly during exploratory activity. It is engaged rapidly when the infant encounters something novel, but also habituates rapidly. The higher level processes critical for the more voluntary control of attention begin to emerge at 1 year, take a leap forward at 18 months, and continue to develop throughout the pre-school years. Focused attention, no longer as subject to habituation, can be sustained for long periods if necessary, to complete planned activity. Although infants can resist distraction, the development of the second attention system allows for more control of response competition.

Keywords: focus; resistance to distraction; narrowing; motivation; inhibition; habituation; voluntary control; response competition

Chapter.  9570 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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