Effects of Exogenous and Endogenous Distracters on Immediate and Long-Term Recall in Toddlers: Distractions and Recall

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We explored the role that exogenous and endogenous competitors for attention play in infants’ abilities to encode and retain information over a 6‐month period. Sixty‐six children visited the laboratory at 15 months, and 32 returned for a second visit at 21 months. Children observed models of conventional‐ relation and enabling‐relation action sequences. Half the children were distracted by a “Mister Monkey” mechanical toy during the conventional‐relation sequence, while the other half was distracted during the enabling‐relation sequence. The Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire indexed endogenous factors at both ages. Immediate postmodel production of target actions indexed encoding efficiency, and 6‐month production of target actions indexed long‐term recall. The exogenous distracter impacted encoding efficiency (i.e., immediate recall), but not long‐term recall. Endogenous factors (i.e., temperament) were primarily associated with long‐term recall. Of special interest was our finding that endogenous factors, especially surgency, moderated the effect of the exogenous distracter. It appears that when learning conventional‐relation sequences in the presence of exogenous distracters, surgency mobilizes attentional resources toward the learning objective; however, when learning enabling‐relation sequences under the same conditions, surgency either boosts the saliency of the distracters or boosts children’s susceptibility to them.