The Effects of Distraction on Cognitive Task Performance During Toddlerhood


should be sent to Kathleen N. Kannass, Department of Psychology, 1032 W. Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL 60660. E-mail:


We investigated the effects of distraction on attention and task performance during toddlerhood. Thirty toddlers (24- to 26-month-olds) completed different tasks (2 of each: categorization, problem solving, memory, free play) in one of two conditions: No Distraction or Distraction. The results revealed that the distractor had varying effects on performance scores depending on the task: The problem solving and memory tasks were more susceptible to distraction. In addition, the two conditions showed different patterns of attention over time. Toddlers in the No Distraction condition were more attentive, and their attention remained consistently high across the session. Toddlers in the Distraction condition increased their attention to the task and decreased their attention to the distractor in the second half of the session. This study demonstrates how the presence of distraction influences toddlers’ performance on individual cognitive tasks and contributes to our understanding of distractibility and endogenous attention during toddlerhood. This work also has implications for how environmental noise, such as background television, may influence cognitive development.