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Karen E. Adolph, John M. Franchak, Daryaneh Badaly, Michael T. Smith, Jason S. Babcock; Head-mounted eye-tracking with children: Visual guidance of motor action. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):102. doi: 10.1167/8.6.102.
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The primary role of vision is to plan and guide motor actions. Previous research used head-mounted eye-tracking devices to examine adults' eye movements while engaged in everyday activities such as making tea or a peanut-butter sandwich (Land et al., 1999; Hayhoe et al., 2003). The timing and location of adults' fixations are geared toward the objects and locations intrinsic to the task, and intricately linked with the unfolding sequence of motor actions: Adults fixate the intended target before moving their hands or bodies to contact it; after they begin to reach toward the target, their gaze shifts to the next goal.
The current study is the first to use a head-mounted eye-tracker to record 2D eye movements in children freely moving through the environment. Six children (4–8 years old) wore a specially constructed eye-tracker (Positive Science, LLC). Analogous to the adult studies, the children arranged a table place setting to match a model. The children walked back and forth repeatedly across a cluttered room as they selected items from an assortment of cups, bowls, plates, placemats, napkins, and utensils on a tabletop to create their own place setting.
The target and duration of the eye movements were coded during the 3 s intervals prior to and following the moment that children's hands contacted an object while picking it up. Like adults, children relied on visual information to guide their hands to the target: They fixated the target prior to contact, but rarely looked at their hands before touching the target. In contrast to adults, children often fixated their hands after touching the target. But, like adults, they closely monitored ongoing actions while gathering visual information for the next goal. In a second “scavenger hunt” task, we are examining children's visual guidance of locomotion through an obstacle course.
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