Consequences of mature cognitive control systems
The choices we make in our everyday lives require us to (1) selectively attend to the contents of a stimulus, and (2) connect those contents to information in memory. When learning, these two mechanisms interact with one another in a dynamic, cyclical fashion over time. Here, we explore how these interactions can produce ``learning traps'' by comparing profiles of selective attention (through eye-tracking data) and choice between two groups known to have different memory capacities: adults and 4-5 year-old children. Although the data confirm that children are less susceptible to representation traps, we also show through computational modeling that the mechanisms that explain this difference are poorer working memory, and greater interest in learning about the dimensions of information themselves. It seems as though by elongating the maturation of selective attention and working memory, nature engineered a way for children to explore the world, helping them to avoid learning traps.