Voluntary attention: what is it and how to develop it?

An attentive person always has great advantages. He is able to see and remember those facts that other people may simply not notice. That’s why attention needs to be developed. It is advisable to do this from childhood. Then the child will grow up indifferent to the world around him and will have a very good intellect.

What it is?

If we talk about attention in general, then such a process is called selective focus on any object. Usually this interest is quite high. That is why in our mind various details of this or that event are postponed. There is voluntary and involuntary attention. Involuntary attention has a biological origin, and voluntary attention is the result of some human activity.

In psychology, voluntary attention is considered special, since the individual shows willpower in its implementation in order to turn his gaze to a certain fact or information. In children, the cognitive process is first built on vivid pictures or life moments. This is how spontaneous attention works. But voluntary attention needs to be developed in a child, since it is not given from birth. And the sooner the development of this type of brain activity begins, the faster the child’s intelligence will develop.

It is necessary to know that voluntary attention is manifested only when we set ourselves a task. For example, memorize this or that material. A person learns to manage voluntary attention from childhood. And when such a process becomes a habit, the individual can easily concentrate on the goal and solve the problem. That is why diligent students often achieve great success. At first they force themselves to constantly focus on this or that information, and then such a process becomes normal. And this once again proves that voluntary attention is due to the setting of a particular goal.

Remember that voluntary attention characterizes the volitional qualities of a person, determines his activities and the range of his interests. Its function is to regulate the course of mental processes.

That is why, thanks to the work of voluntary attention, a person can easily find the necessary information in memory and reproduce it. In this process, the cerebral cortex of the human brain is involved. They are responsible for correcting activities, as well as for programming these activities.

Feature of voluntary attention consists in the presence of some stimulus that comes from the second signal system. Thus, a person can give «orders» to himself. That is precisely why voluntary attention is considered the highest mental function, which is inherent only to man. During the work of this attention, there is a conscious application of volitional efforts, which cannot disappear just because a person may have a distracting option at that moment.

To summarize and consider the distinctive features of voluntary attention:

  • arbitrariness;
  • awareness and mediation;
  • it does not arise at birth, but is formed;
  • this function arose in the course of evolution, which affected the development of human society;
  • it is also dependent on the direct involvement in the learning process and memorization of this or that information;
  • this type of brain activity goes through certain phases of development in ontogenesis.

At what age does it start to take shape?

Arbitrary attention begins to appear already when we show the baby to the toy and let it be touched.. This process can be called the simplest form. Over the course of 3 years, this process is being improved, and by the age of 4-5, the child is able to follow some complex instructions given to him by an adult. By the age of 6, preschoolers develop directed attention. Often it is based on “instructions” to oneself.

In the cognitive sphere, involuntary attention also plays an important role. The attention of young children, as we already know, is directed to bright moments and sounds. In this case, special volitional efforts are not required. However, such activity is not sufficient for the child to be able to develop intellectually and learn about the world around him. For example, a child can easily play with toys, run and jump. Such actions well develop the motor sphere of his activity. However, they will not be able to help him enter the social society and become its full member. But such actions as washing hands, the child will be able to master only when adults help him do it. As a result, he will gradually begin to merge into social life.

It is voluntary attention that helps preschoolers develop certain skills and habits that are not always interesting to them.. Such brain activity does not develop overnight. For children of primary and school age, this process can take quite a long time. The older the child becomes, the more factors arise that affect the development of voluntary attention.

For example, a student needs to learn numbers and the alphabet, learn to count and write, that is, seriously engage in the cognitive sphere. And for this you need to make sure that voluntary attention is back to normal.

It is possible to say that a child has developed voluntary attention when:

  • he easily perceives verbal instruction;
  • he uses an algorithm that adults showed him, and this process will be fixed for quite a long time;
  • may take control of his actions, or at least try to do so.

Remember: speech plays an important role in the development of attention. That is why the child should master good speech as early as possible.

Let’s summarize: abilities that allow the child to concentrate his attention on something develop gradually. Therefore, over time, children begin to be less distracted by insignificant things.

Based on these facts and on various studies, it can be noted that at the age of 3 years, a child can be distracted from the directed activity about 4 times (if this activity continues for 10 minutes). And already at the age of 6, the same child is distracted during a 10-minute lesson only 1 time.

Tip: If you are working with preschool children in order to develop voluntary attention, you need to consider the above information and choose exercises that are short and alternating.

Note also that by the age of 6, children develop voluntary and post-voluntary attention. At this age, children are able, by an effort of will, to direct their attention to the necessary information and even hold it for 40-45 minutes.


Human attention is multifaceted. Let’s consider this question in more detail. Exists involuntary attention (it is caused by unexpected factors), and there is also voluntary attention (occurs if a person makes an effort of will) and post-voluntary attention (occurs after voluntary and includes features of involuntary and voluntary attention).

Consider also what properties the attention of a person as a whole has:

  • stability, thanks to which interest in any activity or information is maintained;
  • selectivity, whereby a person can specifically focus his attention on an object and information if these two factors have aroused his interest;
  • volume — a person can focus on 6-7 objects at once;
  • distribution — it provides simultaneous interest in several objects at once while performing actions with them;
  • switchability, which allows you to switch a person’s attention from one place to another.

Voluntary attention is considered the most sought after, when it comes to the development of intelligence. That is why it has some kinds:

  • expectant — manifests itself when a person has to solve problems and make some efforts for this;
  • volitional — is activated when an internal dispute arises between the “need” and “don’t want” commands;
  • conscious — does not require large expenditures and is easily produced;
  • spontaneous — stands next to post-voluntary attention, the main thing here is to start and start the process, and then there will be no need to make any further efforts.

How to develop?

The mind of children is quite receptive to learning. Know that voluntary attention will not form in a child on its own. Therefore, parents need to develop this particular type of intellectual activity. Consider examples of games and exercises that are aimed at such activities.

  • The game «Follow others». It is desirable to play the game in a large children’s team. The facilitator invites the children to move one after another. And before that, he explains to the participants in advance: if the “stop” command follows, then everyone should stop and stomp their feet. Then you need to turn in the opposite direction 180 degrees and continue moving. The player who makes a mistake is out of the game.
  • Game «Kite». One of the guys sits on a chair. The host says the word «night». At this time, the child who plays the role of a kite closes his eyes and waits. Other children, on the contrary, jump or run. As soon as the command sounds: “day”, then all participants should freeze. The participant who did not hear the command «night» and continues to perform involuntary actions loses. He becomes a kite and the game continues again.
  • You can also offer game «Seize the moment». The facilitator shows the children various movements. Participants should repeat them only if the adult says the command “repeat”. If there was no command, the children remain motionless. The child who showed inattention and repeated the movement without a command is out of the game.
  • An interesting exercise called «Printing the Word». To perform it, the participants in the game are given large letters cut out of hard paper. The host of the game writes a word on the board (it is desirable that the words are familiar, such as “desk”, “pen”, “spoon”, “table”). Children who have the letters contained in the word written on the board clap their hands. As soon as the word «get together», everyone shouts «Hurrah».
  • A game called «Vigilant Neighbors» also contributes to the formation of attention. To play the game, the children line up in a circle. The driver becomes in the middle. He walks in a circle and «lulls» the attention of the players. Then the driver should suddenly stop near one of the participants and say: «Hands up.» The participant indicated by the driver remains motionless, and the “neighbors” players standing nearby must raise their hands up. If someone is inattentive, they are out of the game.

Please note: the age of the child may limit his abilities. For example, some parents consider their child inattentive.

They make such conclusions without thinking. In fact, they make very high demands on their child, setting exorbitant tasks for his age. To avoid making mistakes it is necessary to carefully approach the choice of the activity of the child and take into account his age capabilities.

Above were games that can be offered to preschoolers, and now Let’s look at some exercises for schoolchildren.

  • The ability to focus attention is developed by the exercise «Reverse the word.» To conduct it, students are offered words in which the letters are upside down. For example, such: snave — spring; tapar — school desk; lakosh — school. Children must identify the word and spell it correctly.
  • An exercise «Find the Mistakes» allows children to develop literacy and attention. The teacher writes a sentence on the blackboard and deliberately makes mistakes. For example, «Misha is better to walk with a dog and don’t notice how lost he is.» The teacher asks the students to identify the mistakes and write the sentence correctly. The entire class is involved in this activity.
  • An exercise «Find another word» develops not only attention, but intelligence. For its implementation, the teacher writes on the board the words in which another word is hidden. For example, “prick” (stake), “laughter” (fur), “suddenly” (friend). Children identify hidden words and write them in a notebook in a column.
  • An exercise called «Find related words» will help develop voluntary attention. To perform it, write the initial word on the board, for example, “spoon”. For this word, it is necessary to choose as many words of the same root as possible: “spoon — spoon, put, bed, position”. The winner is the one who writes the largest number of single-root words.
  • An exercise «Find the extra word». The teacher writes words on the board that are close in essence. For example, «cat», «horse», «cow» — they refer to domestic animals. The word «pike» must also be added to this list. Pike is a fish. Students must find the «wrong» word.

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