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Children's Attention to Stimulus Components With Variation In Relative Salience of Components and Degree of Stimulus Integration NICHD

Green, Roberta Z.; Hale, Gordon A.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Attention, Elementary School Students, Preschool Children, Responses, Visual Stimuli


A total of 400 children at age 5, 9, and 12 years were given a component selection task with stimuli varying in both color and shape. Component salience was manipulated (across subjects) in two steps, in an effort to redirect attention from the normally dominant shape component toward color: the standard shapes and colors from earlier studies were compared with standard shapes in fluorescent colors, and the latter materials in turn were compared with nonsense shapes in fluorescent colors. For each salience condition, the color was either contained within the shape (integrated stimuli) or served as a background for the shape (nonintegrated stimuli). While fluorescence of color had little effect, the replacement of standard geometric forms with nonsense figures caused a shift in attention toward color and away from shape. This attentional shift became more marked between ages 5 and 9 years; with age, children apparently withdraw attention from the normally dominant feature to an increasing degree, while they adopt another component as the primary cue for stimulus identification. Integration of components did not influence the pattern of salience effects but generally increased attention to color. Comparison of the component selection task with a dimension-preference matching test showed that only the former measure was sensitive to the effects of component salience on attention. (29pp.)

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