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.
“We often think of children as deficient in many skills when compared to adults. But sometimes what seems like a deficiency can actually be an advantage,” said Vladimir Sloutsky, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at The Ohio State University.
Basically, the 4 and 5 year olds that took part in this research were able to notice everything going on, not just what they were told to focus on. So when it appears that students aren’t paying attention, they still could be, at least if they are 4 or 5.
I’d like to see how old children can be before they lose this ability.