Chapter

Scanning, Searching, and Shifting Attention

Holly Alliger Ruff and Mary Klevjord Rothbart

in Attention in Early Development

Published in print May 2001 | ISBN: 9780195136326
Published online April 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199894031 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195136326.003.0004
Scanning, Searching, and Shifting Attention

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This chapter uses the extensive research on eye movements in order to elucidate the development of visual information gathering. The eye movements of newborns show that they tend to fixate on contours. When looking at specific objects and pictures, infants of 2 to 3 months begin to scan more broadly and to include the internal details. Scanning continues to become more precise, but even pre-schoolers scan in a less controlled manner than adults. During the first year, shifting fixations from one object to another in the environment becomes more rapid and appears to reflect a comparison of alternatives. Later scanning patterns reflect the influence of past experiences, expectations, and task demands. Although visual fixations are an indirect measure of the underlying attentional processes, they are useful in documenting changes from sub-cortical to cortical control of attention.

Keywords: eye movements; fixations; scanning; anticipation; shifts of attention; overt orienting; covert orienting

Chapter.  6568 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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