Active Vision in the Perception of Actions: An Eye Tracking Study in Naturalistic Contexts

AbstractInfants’ ability to attend actively and selectively to naturalistic stimuli is critical to early learning. Most studies on infant visual attention use screen-based paradigms wherein infants view stimuli on computer screens. Little is known about how infants observe others’ activities in everyday contexts. Using head-mounted eye-tracking, this study examined how infants distributed attention when observing their parents perform an everyday task – making peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches – in a home-like environment. Infant observers attended to parents’ activities less than adult observers in the same situation. However, when infants were engaged in action observation, their gaze patterns were distributed on task-relevant objects similarly to adult observers, suggesting they actively obtained rich visual input in this free-viewing situation. Moreover, infant-parent dyads coordinated visual attention during the food preparation task in similar ways as observed in other everyday tasks, such as toy play, suggesting sensorimotor processes play a critical role in coordinated attention.

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