The word- and nonword-learning abilities of toddlers were tested under various conditions of environmental distraction, and evaluated with respect to children's temperamental attentional focus. Thirty-nine children and their mothers visited the lab at child age 21-months, where children were exposed to fast-mapping word-learning trials and nonlinguistic sequential learning trials. It was found that both word- and nonword-learning were adversely affected by the presentation of environmental distractions. But it was also found that the effect of the distractions sometimes depended on children's level of attentional focus. Specifically, children high in attentional focus were less affected by environmental distractions than children low in attentional focus when attempting to learn from a model, whereas children low in attentional focus demonstrated little learning from the model. Translationally, these results may be of use to child health-care providers investigating possible sources of cognitive and language delay.
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