Play, attention, and learning: How do play and timing shape the development of attention and influence classroom learning?

James H. Hedges, Karen E. Adolph, Dima Amso, Daphne Bavelier, Julie A. Fiez, Leah Krubitzer, J. Devin Mcauley, Nora S. Newcombe, Susan M. Fitzpatrick, Jamshid Ghajar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The behavioral and neurobiological connections between play and the development of critical cognitive functions, such as attention, remain largely unknown. We do not yet know how these connections relate to the formation of specific abilities, such as spatial ability, and to learning in formal environments, such as in the classroom. Insights into these issues would be beneficial not only for understanding play, attention, and learning individually, but also for the development of more efficacious systems for learning and for the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. Different operational definitions of play can incorporate or exclude varying types of behavior, emphasize varying developmental time points, and motivate different research questions. Relevant questions to be explored in this area include, How do particular kinds of play relate to the development of particular kinds of abilities later in life? How does play vary across societies and species in the context of evolution? Does play facilitate a shift from reactive to predictive timing, and is its connection to timing unique or particularly significant? This report will outline important research steps that need to be taken in order to address these and other questions about play, human activity, and cognitive functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Action video games
  • Anticipatory timing
  • Architecture
  • Attention
  • Child ANT
  • Cortex
  • Education
  • Evolution
  • Head-mounted eye-tracking
  • Infant development
  • Isotropic fractionator
  • Learning
  • Locomotion
  • Perceptual-motor coordination
  • Play
  • Puzzles
  • STEM
  • Spatial skill
  • Synchronization
  • Transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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