Researchers surprised adults and 4- and 5-year-old children participating in the study by making information that was irrelevant at the beginning of the experiment suddenly important for a task they had to complete.
“Adults had a hard time readjusting because they didn’t learn the information they thought wouldn’t be important,” said Vladimir Sloutsky, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at The Ohio State University.
“Children, on the other hand, recovered quickly to the new circumstances because they weren’t ignoring anything. I’m sure a lot of parents will recognize that tendency of children to notice everything, even when you wish they wouldn’t.”
One feature was always different on Flurps and Jalets – for example, the Jalets may have a blue tail and the Flurps an orange tail. In addition, the children and adults were told that most (but not all) of the Flurps had a certain type of feature, such as pink antennae.
But halfway through the experiment, the researchers made an unannounced switch: The irrelevant feature became the feature that would determine whether the creature was a Flurp or a Jalet. This feature, which had been the same for both creatures before the switch, was now different.