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New methods for answering old questions about the young ones…

August 19, 2010

Click on the photo to access the article on the New York Times website…

The article describes a new methodology for studying what information infants use as they navigate the world. Eye gaze has been a staple of developmental (and adult) research for years, so the assumption that what a child looks at reflects mental processing is not new. Advances in technology, however, have made it possible to use eye gaze measures in exciting new ways. Wearable eye-tracking systems have been developed that are small and light-weight enough that even infants can be outfitted. The system includes a camera that records the visual field and an eye-tracking device that records where in that visual field the eye is fixating. This represents an enormous advance as most infant studies previously relied on much more gross measures of eye gaze (e.g. undergrad assistants recording whether the infant looked at one display or another or how long the infant looked at a particular scenario). The use of eye tracking was largely relegated to studies that required the participant to hold still (not easy for any child, much less an infant) and only interact with information presented on a screen (not as ecologically valid as allowing the participant to move through the environment).

Now, the challenge is to devise sophisticated experimental scenarios (and accompanying psychological theories) that can take advantage of the new opportunities afforded by this advance in methodology.

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