Although children are thought of being deficient in many skills when compared to adults, a new study has shown that this limitation in kids can actually be their strength as they can see what adults tend to miss.
“We often think of children as deficient in many skills when compared to adults. But some times what seems like a deficiency can actually be an advantage,” said Vladimir Sloutsky, Professor at the Ohio State University in the US.
The findings revealed that while adults are very good at remembering information they are told to focus on, they tend to ignore the rest.
Conversely, 4- to 5-year-olds tend to pay attention to all the information that was presented to them — even when they were told to focus on one particular item.
Thus, children noticed things that adults did not catch because of the grownups’ selective attention.
Children are extremely curious and they tend to explore everything, which means their attention is spread out and they end up noticing and remembering more than the adults, Sloutsky noted, in the paper published in the journal Psychological Science.
However, the ability of adults to focus their attention helps them to sit in two-hour meetings and maintain long conversations, while ignoring distractions.
“But young children’s use of distributed attention allows them to learn more in new and unfamiliar settings by taking in a lot of information,” Sloutsky explained.
The fact that children don’t always do as well at focusing attention also shows the importance of designing the right learning environment in classrooms.
“Children can’t handle a lot of distractions. They are always taking in information, even if it is not what you’re trying to teach them. We need to make sure that we are aware of that and design our classrooms, textbooks and educational materials to help students succeed,” Sloutsky said.