Although adults can beat children at most cognitive tasks, new research shows that children’s limitations can sometimes be their strength.
In two studies, researchers found that adults were very good at remembering information they were told to focus on, and ignoring the rest. In contrast, 4- to 5-year-olds tended to pay attention to all the information that was presented to them – even when they were told to focus on one particular item. That helped children to notice things that adults didn’t catch because of the grownups’ selective attention.
The results have important implications for understanding how education environments affect children’s learning.
The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute for Educational Science.