what is it in psychology? Examples. At what age does voluntary attention begin to take shape? What is characterized?

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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