Cultural Patterns in Attending to Two Events at Once


  • Rebeca Mejía Arauz is now at ITESO University, Guadalajara, Mexico. Appreciative thanks to the families who participated in this study, to the teachers and principals of Starlight and Valencia Schools for facilitating the children's involvement, and especially to Noni Reis, Eileen Fuller, and Rocío Rivadeneyra for their valuable help. Thanks also to Nameera Akhtar, Ruth Paradise, Cathy Angelillo, Araceli Valle, Amy Dexter, and Pablo Chavajay for their comments. We are also grateful for support from the Ford Foundation to the first author, Sandra Basel Beck and the University of California, Santa Cruz Foundation Professorship in Psychology to the second author, and from CONACYT (Mexico) to the third author.

Please address correspondence concerning this article to Maricela Correa-Chávez, Psychology Department, Social Sciences 2, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study examined cultural differences in children's simultaneous attention to 2 events versus quick alternation in which attending to 1 event momentarily interrupted attending to another. Thirty-one 6- to 10-year-old U.S. children of Mexican and European American heritage folded paper figures with 2 other first- to third-grade children and an adult. Mexican heritage children whose mothers averaged 7 grades of school more commonly attended to events simultaneously. European heritage and Mexican heritage children whose mothers had more than 12 grades of school more commonly alternated attention. Differences are interpreted in light of traditional indigenous North and Central American emphasis on learning through observation of ongoing events as well as school practices that emphasize learning by attending to one event at a time.