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Perceptual Development: Attention

Attention is a broad term that refers to a series of complex processes. Although attention influences the function of all sensory systems, this entry will consider the development of visual attention because most research considering the development of attention has focused on the visual system.

Developmental psychologists have often taken paradigms that have been used to study attention in the primate visual system and adapted them to function as “marker tasks” for the development of attentional networks in humans. Three attentional systems have been identified. These include (1) arousal, (2) orienting, and (3) executive control. This entry defines these systems and considers their development in turn.

Arousal is a sense of heightened engagement. For example, we become alert or aroused into action when a door suddenly slams. ...

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