Developmental Science

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Volume 22 Issue 1 (January 2019), Pages

Selective attention, filtering, and the development of working memory

Abstract Selective attention is fundamental for learning across many situations, yet it exhibits protracted development, with young children often failing to filter out distractors. In this research, we examine links between selective attention and working memory (WM) capacity across development. One possibility is that WM is resource‐limited, with development resulting in an increase in the amount of resources available for processing information. However, it is also possible that development results in greater efficiency of using available resources. In the current research, we explore the latter possibility by examining the developmental trajectory of selectivity and filtering in relation to WM capacity. We report that filtering efficiency of adults (N = 30), 7‐year‐olds (N = 29), and 4‐year‐olds (N = 28) was uniquely predictive of WM capacity. We also report that filtering efficiency continues to develop after 7 years of age, whereas WM capacity may reach an asymptote around 7 years of age. The latter finding suggests that selective attention plays a critical role in developmental and individual differences in visual working memory capacity.

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