Developmental changes in the ability to allocate attention selectively in a visual distraction task



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Developmental changes in the ability to use momentary intentions to direct selective processing were investigated using a Stroop-type task. First graders, fourth graders, and college students labeled the color of background circles in four different conditions. " In the baseline condition only plain circles were presented. In three interference conditions meaningless, meaningful, and colorful meaningful figures were embedded in the circles. The difference in naming latencies between the four conditions permitted the identification of the components of interference produced by the figures. Differences in naming latencies across grade levels within each experimental condition were investigated to determine developmental trends in speed. The response times of the first graders, but not of the fourth graders and college students, were increased by the presence of the embedded figures. The interference at the first grade level was based on the semantic aspect of the embedded figures. In all conditions speed increased as a function of age.