Seeing Is Not Enough for Sustained Visual Attention


Sustained visual attention is crucial to many developmental outcomes. We demonstrate that, consistent with the developmental systems view, sustained visual attention emerges from and is tightly tied to sensory motor coordination. We examined whether changes in manual behavior alter toddlers’ eye gaze by giving one group of children heavy toys that were hard to pick up, while giving another group of children perceptually identical toys that were lighter, easy to pick up and hold. We found a tight temporal coupling between the dynamics of visual attention and the dynamics of manual activities, a relation that cannot be explained by interest. In the Heavy condition, toddlers looked at objects just as much as did toddlers in the Light condition but did so through many brief glances, whereas in Light condition looks to the objects were longer and sustained. We discuss the implication of hand-eye coordination in the development of visual attention.

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