Being childish is often used as an insult – but it doesn’t have to be. Not according to a new study from the Ohio State University, which says that we can learn something about the way kids remember information.
Focus on the bigger picture
The research team found that while adults are better than children at remembering information they were told to focus on, children actually paid attention to all the information presented to them – even when they were told to focus on one particular item.
This helped the children to notice things the adults often didn’t catch because of the grownups’ selective attention.
The study says children are extremely curious and tend to explore everything. This means their attention is more spread out.
Participants in the study were shown two shapes, with one shape overlaying the other, on a computer screen and asked to focus on one of the two images. The images then changed. Both children and adults were asked to tell them about what they saw on the previous screen.
They adults performed better at noticing when the shape they were asked to focus on changed, noticing it 94% of the time compared to 86% of the time for children.
But the children were much better at noticing when the other shape changed – noticing it 77% of the time, compared to 63% for adults.
How this applies to meetings
In the real world, you probably won’t be asked to focus on one or two images. But you will be presented with lots of information in meetings.
Often, you’ll have an idea of what you want to get from the meeting and so will focus on certain aspects of what is being presented to you. This could mean you’re missing some vital information.
Young children’s use of ‘distributed attention’ means they can learn more in new and unfamiliar settings by taking in a lot of information.
But there are some benefits to adults’ focus. The researchers found that adults’ ability to focus on one thing at a time is what allows us to sit in two-hour meetings and maintain long conversations, while ignoring distractions.