images longer. Overall, the babies who gazed for less time also had more behavioural problems in childhood, according to the study. "We were … struck that differences between newbornsin their visual attention predicted how the children would behave when they were older," said study author Angelica Ronald, an associate professor at Birkbeck, University of London. The investigators said they don't know what mechanism might link babies' visual attention with theirbehaviour in childhood, but the scientists would like to explore this question next. These differences between babies so young are likely due to genetics or the environment the children experienced within the womb, she said.
"For anyone interested in the role of nature and nurture, it shows that children's ability to attend to things visually is not all due to parenting or environmental effects after birth," Ronald told LiveScience. Researchers have known that conditions that cause people to have a difficult time paying attention, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, are partly heritable, she said. So it's reasonable that there would be differences among individuals in the ability to pay attention at any age, she said. However, more research is needed in this area, she said.
And even if people's attention styles do depend on genetic factors, it's still possible that there are ways for people to learn to increase their attention spans, Ronald said.