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Lisa Cantrell, Richard Veale, Linda Smith; Infant Saccadic Behavior Influenced by Novelty and Familiarity of Stimuli in the Periphery. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):102. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/14.10.102.
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Both endogenous and exogenous factors influence whether and in what direction humans shift visual attention. Early in the infant system, however, environmental factors of saliency as well as motor reflexes appear to play a key role in visual behavior as infants make saccades in the direction of movement or regions of high contrast (Aslin & Salapateck, 1975; Banks & Gingsburg, 1985) and saccade even in total darkness (Haith, 1980). By 4 months, infants show evidence of using learned cues to guide saccades (e.g., Johnson, Posner, & Rothbart, 1991), suggesting that top-down processes also play a role. Here we ask if the recognition of novelty and familiarity in the peripheral areas of the visual field also guide infants eye movements. Eighteen infants, age 6-8 months, were presented familiar and novel objects in their periphery at 10 degrees from center. Initial saccades to these objects as well as total time spent looking at the objects was measured. Results showed that, although infants preferred to fixate a longer total time on familiar items, initial saccades were primarily guided by a left spatial field bias that interacted with the tendency to make first saccades to novel objects. These preliminary results suggest that saccadic behavior in infants at this age are still highly determined by automatic motor responses, as a left-side bias has been suggested to be the result of hemispheric lateralization that may result in a default for initial visual scanning of items or scenes-- at least in young infants (e.g., Guo, Meints, Hall, Hall, & Mills, 2009); however, the observation that this bias can be shifted by manipulating novelty in the visual scene demonstrates that infant saccadic behavior is also driven by a gravitation towards novel information in the environment and this influence occurs at the very short time-scales over which saccades occur.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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