Attention modifies sound level detection in young children

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18 Scopus citations


Have you ever shouted your child's name from the kitchen while they were watching television in the living room to no avail, so you shout their name again, only louder? Yet, still no response. The current study provides evidence that young children process loudness changes differently than pitch changes when they are engaged in another task such as watching a video. Intensity level changes were physiologically detected only when they were behaviorally relevant, but frequency level changes were physiologically detected without task relevance in younger children. This suggests that changes in pitch rather than changes in volume may be more effective in evoking a response when sounds are unexpected. Further, even though behavioral ability may appear to be similar in younger and older children, attention-based physiologic responses differ from automatic physiologic processes in children. Results indicate that (1) the automatic auditory processes leading to more efficient higher-level skills continue to become refined through childhood; and (2) there are different time courses for the maturation of physiological processes encoding the distinct acoustic attributes of sound pitch and sound intensity. The relevance of these findings to sound perception in real-world environments is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-360
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Attention
  • Development
  • Event-related potentials (ERPs)
  • Mismatch negativity (MMN)
  • Sound frequency
  • Sound intensity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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