Staying and Returning Dynamics of Sustained Attention in Young Children

AbstractSustained attention is a dynamic process with rich temporal structure. Eye-tracking provides a tool for capturing rich temporal data relevant to sustained attention, but extracting relevant insights from this rich data is nontrivial. This paper studies eye-tracking data collected from children, aged 3-5, performing the TrackIt task, a visual object tracking paradigm designed for studying sustained attention development in young children. Building on a hidden Markov model paradigm recently proposed for analyzing eye-tracking data with TrackIt, we explore characterizations of participant behavior, such as continuously maintaining attention on an object and transitioning attention between objects, that provide richer insights than task performance alone. In particular, our results suggest that improvement in TrackIt performance that accompanies development in this age range may stem more from improved ability to return to task after distractions, rather than from improvements in ability to continuously maintain attention on the task.

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