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Eye tracking in research on developmental psychology

Long before infants or young children can talk, eye tracking can provide detailed information about what they perceive and find compelling about the world.

Eye tracking in a broad range of studies in developmental psychology

Applicability of eye tracking within the field of developmental research is broad, including studies of:

  • Developmental progression in infants’ allocation of attention and interest
  • Visual perception related to understanding and recall
  • Ability to recognize motion signals
  • Development of control of action
  • Social interaction characteristics
  • Oculomotor functions
  • Language acquisition

Social cognitive development

In research on social cognition and interaction, eye tracking is used to study how and what infants and children look at when watching people perform goal-oriented actions or engage in social events. By analyzing infants’ scanning patterns, researchers can answer questions such as:

  • How do children understand what other people do, think or feel?
  • How do we decode the actions and intentions of other people?
  • How does the ability to follow or coordinate our actions with others around us develop in in infants?

Development of the oculomotor system

Eye tracking is an invaluable research tool aimed at understanding how infants develop control over the oculomotor system and how different eye motions (smooth pursuit, saccades, and vestibulo-ocular) are integrated. Typically in such studies, infants are presented with target images that move in various trajectories, and eye tracking is used to measure their eye and head movements as they track these objects.

Detailed spatial and temporal eye tracking data

Scanning patterns provide valuable information about how infants distribute their attention and interest as they scan different images or dynamic events. Saccade latencies give information about when infants shift their gaze between two locations, allowing researchers to study predictive and reactive gaze shifts. Being able assess eye movement data over time allows examination of the time course of learning and how infants’ attention changes over multiple presentations of a stimulus set.

Eye tracking to study object representation

Much research has been carried out to understand how infants remember (represent) temporarily hidden or occluded objects. Eye tracking can provide a detailed description of how infants’ actions are directed to ongoing occlusion events, by determining when and where their gaze shifts from one location to another (saccades can be predictive of future target locations, with latency indicating how far in advance this prediction is made), thus revealing the development of object permanence.

Product and services

Tobii Pro eye trackers are known for their exceptional tolerance of substantial, dynamic head movement which allows for minimal restrictions on the subjects’ natural actions. This makes them ideal for infant and child studies, as well as atypical populations.

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