Evidence for intact memory-guided attention in school-aged children

Matthew L. Dixon, Philip David Zelazo, Eve De Rosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Visual scenes contain many statistical regularities such as the likely identity and location of objects that are present; with experience, such regularities can be encoded and can ultimately facilitate the deployment of spatial attention to important locations. Memory-guided attention has been extensively examined in adults with the 'contextual cueing' paradigm and has been linked to specific neural substrates - a medial temporal lobe (MTL)-frontoparietal network. However, it currently remains unknown when this ability comes 'online' during development. Thus, we examined the performance of school-aged children on an age-appropriate version of the contextual cueing paradigm. Children searched for a target fish among distractor fish in new displays and in 'old' displays on a touchscreen computer. Old displays repeated across blocks of trials and thus provided an opportunity for prior experience with the invariant configuration of the stimuli to guide attentional deployment. We found that over time children searched old displays significantly faster than new displays, thus revealing intact memory-guided attention and presumed function of an MTL-frontoparietal network in 5- to 9-year-olds. More generally, our findings suggest that children are remarkably sensitive to the inherent structure of their visual environment and this enables attentional deployment to become more efficient with experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-169
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


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