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Inga M Ólafsdóttir, Steinunn Gestsdóttir, Árni Kristjánsson; The role of executive functions in foraging throughout development. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):234b. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.234b.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
In visual foraging paradigms participants search for multiple targets among distractors. Studying visual attention from a different angle than traditional single target visual search tasks may provide a deeper understanding of the dynamics of the visual attentional system. Foraging tasks allow, for example, the study of how attention is allocated over time and how observers attend to multiple targets of various types. To date, little is known about the way foraging abilities develop. In this study, the foraging of five age groups, children aged six, nine, twelve, and fifteen, along with adults, was measured, in addition to performance on various tasks measuring four subdomains of executive functions; inhibition, working memory, attentional flexibility, and planning. Executive functions are a a complex network of cognitive processes that underlie action planning and goal directed behaviors, and have been shown to be connected to attentional orienting. Foraging abilities improve dramatically between ages six and twelve, when they start to plateau. This is evident by increasingly faster foraging, more frequent switching between target types, and lower switch costs. In addition, the foraging performance of 15 year old children and adults seems to rely predominantly on visual working memory, whereas the foraging of six and nine year old children is connected to more global measures of executive functions. The connection of foraging and executive functions of the twelve year old participants lies in between the other groups, with a connection with both global measures and visual working memory. Foraging is proving to be a promising way of studying visual attention and its development yielding insights that more traditional visual attention tasks miss.
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