Understanding Attentional Selectivity, Flexibility, and Stability: A Dynamic Neural Field Model Predicts Behavior in 3- and 4-year-olds

AbstractPreviously, a dynamic neural field model of the dimensional change card sort (DCCS) task was used to explain the role of flexible attention in early executive function development. In the current study, we generalize this model to demonstrate that it successfully explains developmental associations between flexible and stable attention development. Next, we test associations between attentional flexibility and attention selectivity predicted by the model. Three- and 4-year-olds who demonstrated attentional flexibility were more likely to selectively attend to a single dimension in the free classification task, supporting model predictions. In addition, children who were more flexibly were also more stable in their choices during a dimensional priming task. These results suggest that multiple attentional functions emerge from common neurocognitive processes operating across different task demands.

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