September 2018
Volume 18, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2018
Reaching behavior reveals outsized impact of distractor salience and selection history in young children
Author Affiliations
  • Jeff Moher
    Psychology Department, Connecticut College
  • Christopher Erb
    Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
  • Stuart Marcovitch
    Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Journal of Vision September 2018, Vol.18, 473. doi:
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      Jeff Moher, Christopher Erb, Stuart Marcovitch; Reaching behavior reveals outsized impact of distractor salience and selection history in young children. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):473.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Recent methodological advances have enabled researchers to explore the dynamics of attentional control and distractibility by recording the spatial and temporal dynamics of hand movements. Although this approach has proven insightful for studying attention in adults, less research has employed these techniques to study the development of attention. Here, we address this gap in the literature by using reach tracking to measure attention capture in 5-year-olds, 9-year-olds, 13-14-year-olds, and adults. We instructed participants to touch a target (a diamond) that appeared on a display alongside three non-targets (circles). On half of the trials, all objects were the same color. On the remaining half, one of the circles was uniquely colored, providing a salient distractor. Consistent with previous work with adults, reach trajectories were attracted toward the location of the distractor. The size of this attraction did not significantly vary across age groups. However, distractor-related costs in movement time (MT: time elapsed between hand movement onset and offset) did differ across age groups. MT was slowed by the presence of a distractor in 5-year-olds (42 ms slower) and 9-year-olds (12 ms), but not in older age groups. MT costs were largely incurred during the early portion of the movement, and accompanied by decrements in velocity, suggesting that salient distractors produced cautious or uncertain initial movements in young children. Location repetition effects revealed a similar developmental trajectory, with larger repetition effects across multiple measures in 5-year-olds compared to older ages. These results demonstrate that younger children, in comparison to older children and adults, are strongly influenced by distractions and other task-irrelevant factors during goal-directed action. The visually-guided reaching approach allowed us to examine the time-course of these issues, revealing dissociations in which some components of goal-directed actions change over the course of development, while others remain consistent.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018


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