Be there on time: Spatial-temporal regularities guide young children’s attention in dynamic environments

Nir Shalev, Sage Boettcher, Hannah Wilkinson, Gaia Scerif, Anna C. Nobre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children's ability to benefit from spatiotemporal regularities to detect goal-relevant targets was tested in a dynamic, extended context. Young adults and children (from a low-deprivation area school in the United Kingdom; N = 80; 5–6 years; 39 female; ethics approval did not permit individual-level race/ethnicity surveying) completed a dynamic visual-search task. Targets and distractors faded in and out of a display over seconds. Half of the targets appeared at predictable times and locations. Search performance in children was poorer overall. Nevertheless, they benefitted equivalently from spatiotemporal regularities, detecting more predictable than unpredictable targets. Children's benefits from predictions correlated positively with their attention. The study brings ecological validity to the study of attentional guidance in children, revealing striking behavioral benefits of dynamic experience-based predictions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1414-1426
Number of pages13
JournalChild Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Child Development published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Research in Child Development.


  • attention
  • cognitive development
  • visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Be there on time: Spatial-temporal regularities guide young children’s attention in dynamic environments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this