The findings, published today in Current Biology , suggest that caregiver attention can aid in the development of sustained attention span in very young kids. Yu is particularly interested in how this work may be applied to children with autism. Siblings, for instance, often display individual differences in attention even when raised by the same parents.
Attempting to focus a child's attention on objects by holding them out, naming them and trying to interest the child in them, worked only some of the time. Focused attention also helps key cognitive achievements such as problem solving and language acquisition. Studies in kids from age 1 through grade school have shown that greater attention spans, even at a very young age, are a good predictor of future achievement. The team employed head-mounted cameras to track the eye movements and gazes of three dozen parents and infants aged 11 to 13 months, who were turned loose in a play space and asked to simply play as they would at home with brightly colored plastic objects. Scientists have sometimes viewed this cognitive growth as a function of the individual brain, but the new study suggests that social interaction plays a role. Siblings, for instance, often display individual differences in attention even when raised by the same parents. Curious young children are known for their short attention spans, but their ability to sustain focus usually grows along with their bodies. Different parenting styles produced very different levels of infant attention, suggesting that how people play is as important in making the effort. When infants and caregivers both paid attention to an object for more than 3. Related Content Caesarean Births Could Be Affecting Human Evolution Doing so may boost the kid's brain development, and chances of future success, by teaching him or her how to keep their own attention focused on the task at hand, a new study shows. The findings, published today in Current Biology , suggest that caregiver attention can aid in the development of sustained attention span in very young kids. Yu is particularly interested in how this work may be applied to children with autism. Many factors, intrinsic and external alike, could account for these differences, Yu notes, though some of them may include parent behavior. Steven Elmlinger When parents paid attention to a toy during play, the infants also continued to focus on it—even after the mom or dad had turned elsewhere. The more successful parents were attentive and engaged but played by letting the child lead. The authors likened this effect to the way a parent will initially hold the back of a bike while their child learns to peddle before letting go and sending them off on their own. But the many factors involved in cognitive development make the process a complicated one. Based on these past findings, Yu and IU colleague Linda Smith evaluated attention span in infants at play.
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