In a dichotic listening paradigm, event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded to linguistic and nonlinguistic probe stimuli embedded in 2 different narrative contexts as they were either attended or unattended. In adults, the typical N1 attention effect was observed for both types of probes: Probes superimposed on the attended narrative elicited an enhanced negativity compared to the same probes when unattended. Overall, this sustained attention effect was greater over medial and left lateral sites, but was more posteriorly distributed and of longer duration for linguistic as compared to nonlinguistic probes. In contrast, in 6-to 8-year-old children the ERPs were morphologically dissimilar to those elicited in adults and children displayed a greater positivity to both types of probe stimuli when embedded in the attended as compared to the unattended narrative. Although both adults and children showed attention effects beginning at about 100 msec, only adults displayed left-lateralized attention effects and a distinct, posterior distribution for linguistic probes. These results suggest that the attentional networks indexed by this task continue to develop beyond the age of 8 years.

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