It has more of a lantern

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A note for Lesson no. 3, "Little Brains Wire Themselves to Their World," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 54 is:

But the newborn brain doesn’t have a spotlight. It has more of a lantern...

The appendix adds:

Besides sharing attention, other abilities are probably important to developing a spotlight of attention.

The references associated with this appendix entry are:

  • The lantern of attention in infancy[1]
  • The importance of head and oculomotor control for attention[2]
  • The hypothesis that infants come prewired to attend to movements that indicate whether something is alive[3]
  • The hypothesis that there is innate attention to certain features that allow humans to develop as social animals[4]


  1. Gopnik, Alison. 2009. The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life, 110–126. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  2. Amso, Dima, and Gaia Scerif. 2015. "The Attentive Brain: Insights From Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience." Nature Reviews Neuroscience 16 (10): 606–619.
  3. New, Joshua, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby. 2007. "Category-Specific Attention For Animals Reflects Ancestral Priorities, Not Expertise." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104: 16598–16603.
  4. Csibra, Gergely, and György Gergely. 2011. "Natural Pedagogy as Evolutionary Adaptation." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366 (1567): 1149–1157.