September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
The Development of Oculomotor Suppression of Salient Distractors in Children
Author Affiliations
  • Emily C. Blakley
    Binghamton University, SUNY
  • Nicholas Duggan
    Binghamton University, SUNY
  • Nicholas Gaspelin
    Binghamton University, SUNY
  • Peter Gerhardstein
    Binghamton University, SUNY
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 2704. doi:
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      Emily C. Blakley, Nicholas Duggan, Nicholas Gaspelin, Peter Gerhardstein; The Development of Oculomotor Suppression of Salient Distractors in Children. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):2704.

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

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There is now considerable evidence that adults can prevent attentional capture by physically salient stimuli via proactive inhibition. A key question is whether young children are also able to inhibit salient stimuli and orient towards task-relevant objects. Studies of classroom distractions, visual search, task switching, and attentional surround suppression found that children under the age of nine are unable to successfully inhibit distractors; a reaction time cost is present when irrelevant distractors are added to a display. The current study used eye-tracking to investigate whether 5-year-olds can suppress bottom-up attentional capture by a salient distractor. The destination of first saccades were used to assess attentional allocation by the salient distractor, providing a more direct index of attentional capture than prior developmental studies. Results demonstrated that children did not suppress eye movements to salient distractors like adults. That is, first saccades were equally likely to be directed to the singleton and nonsingleton distractors. Subsequent analyses indicated that children were eventually able to suppress the singleton distractor, but the time course of this suppression was delayed compared to adults. Altogether, the result demonstrated that children have some level of top-down control over visual attention, but this control is delayed compared to adults. Development of this ability may be related to executive functioning, which includes goal-directed behavior such as organized search and impulse control as well as preparatory and inhibitory cognitive functions.


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