Sustained selective attention predicts flexible switching in preschoolers

Viridiana L. Benitez, Catarina Vales, Rima Hanania, Linda B. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Stability and flexibility are fundamental to an intelligent cognitive system. Here, we examined the relationship between stability in selective attention and explicit control of flexible attention. Preschoolers were tested on the Dimension Preference (DP) task, which measures the stability of selective attention to an implicitly primed dimension, and the Dimension Change Card Sort (DCCS) task, which measures flexible attention switching between dimensions. Children who successfully switched on the DCCS task were more likely than those who perseverated to sustain attention to the primed dimension on the DP task across trials. We propose that perseverators have less stable attention and distribute their attention between dimensions, whereas switchers can successfully stabilize attention to individual dimensions and, thus, show more enduring priming effects. Flexible attention may emerge, in part, from implicit processes that stabilize attention even in tasks not requiring switching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Attentional flexibility
  • Dimensional Change Card Sort
  • Executive function
  • Priming
  • Selective attention
  • Switching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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