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(How) does attentional control matter?

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Attentional control plays a crucial role in biasing incoming information in favour of what is relevant to further processing, action selection and long-term task goals. Much of the work investigating attention has focused on adult cognitive systems, but unique insights can come from understanding the mechanisms and consequences of attention development. Here I aim to review three distinct but complementary lines of work. First, studying failures of attentional control over developmental time has elucidated their cascading effects ranging from behavioural outcomes to the acquisition of domain-specific skills. Second, and in turn, understanding the adverse effects of attentional difficulties requires studying how attentional control gates learning over typical development. To this second aim, colleagues and I have assessed the impact of distinct aspects of attentional control on concurrent and longitudinal abilities related to basic literacy and numeracy in preschoolers and the early primary school years. Finally, we have explored whether attentional constraints on learning could be mediated by interactions with memory by studying attentional control effects on encoding and maintenance in visual STM and WM. These attentional constraints cast light on the unfolding relationships between domain-general and domain-specific processes over development and have implications for our understanding of adult attentive observers.

This talk is part of the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) series.

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