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Gaze in Action: Head-mounted Eye Tracking of Children's Dynamic Visual Attention During Naturalistic Behavior

Published: November 14th, 2018



1Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, 2Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, The Ohio State University, 3Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside

Young children do not passively observe the world, but rather actively explore and engage with their environment. This protocol provides guiding principles and practical recommendations for using head-mounted eye trackers to record infants' and toddlers' dynamic visual environments and visual attention in the context of natural behavior.

Young children's visual environments are dynamic, changing moment-by-moment as children physically and visually explore spaces and objects and interact with people around them. Head-mounted eye tracking offers a unique opportunity to capture children's dynamic egocentric views and how they allocate visual attention within those views. This protocol provides guiding principles and practical recommendations for researchers using head-mounted eye trackers in both laboratory and more naturalistic settings. Head-mounted eye tracking complements other experimental methods by enhancing opportunities for data collection in more ecologically valid contexts through increased portability and freedom of head and body movements compared to screen-based eye tracking. This protocol can also be integrated with other technologies, such as motion tracking and heart-rate monitoring, to provide a high-density multimodal dataset for examining natural behavior, learning, and development than previously possible. This paper illustrates the types of data generated from head-mounted eye tracking in a study designed to investigate visual attention in one natural context for toddlers: free-flowing toy play with a parent. Successful use of this protocol will allow researchers to collect data that can be used to answer questions not only about visual attention, but also about a broad range of other perceptual, cognitive, and social skills and their development.

The last several decades have seen growing interest in studying the development of infant and toddler visual attention. This interest has stemmed in large part from the use of looking time measurements as a primary means to assess other cognitive functions in infancy and has evolved into the study of infant visual attention in its own right. Contemporary investigations of infant and toddler visual attention primarily measure eye movements during screen-based eye-tracking tasks. Infants sit in a chair or parent's lap in front of a screen while their eye movements are monitored during the presentation of static images or events. Such tasks, however, fail to capture ....

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This tutorial is based on a procedure for collecting head-mounted eye-tracking data with toddlers approved by the Institutional Review Board at Indiana University. Informed parental consent was obtained prior to toddlers' participation in the experiment.

1. Preparation for the Study

  1. Eye-Tracking Equipment. Select one of the several head-mounted eye-tracking systems that are commercially available, either one marketed as specifically for children or modify the s.......

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The method discussed here was applied to a free-flowing toy play context between toddlers and their parents. The study was designed to investigate natural visual attention in a cluttered environment. Dyads were instructed to play freely with a set of 24 toys for six minutes. Toddlers' visual attention was measured by coding the onset and offset of looks to specific regions of interest (ROIs) -- each of the 24 toys and the parent's face -- and by analyzing the duration and proporti.......

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This protocol provides guiding principles and practical recommendations for implementing head-mounted eye tracking with infants and young children. This protocol was based on the study of natural toddler behaviors in the context of parent-toddler free play with toys in a laboratory setting. In-house eye-tracking equipment and software were used for calibration and data coding. Nevertheless, this protocol is intended to be generally applicable to researchers using a variety of head-mounted eye-tracking systems to study a .......

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This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health grants R01HD074601 (C.Y.), T32HD007475-22 (J.I.B., D.H.A.), and F32HD093280 (L.K.S.); National Science Foundation grant BCS1523982 (L.B.S., C.Y.); and by Indiana University through the Emerging Area Research Initiative - Learning: Brains, Machines, and Children (L.B.S.). The authors thank the child and parent volunteers who participated in this research and who agreed to be used in the figures and filming of this protocol. We also appreciate the members of the Computational Cognition and Learning Laboratory, especially Sven Bambach, Anting Chen, Steven Elmlinger, Seth Foster, Grace Lisandrelli, and Charlene....

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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Head-mounted eye tracker Pupil Labs World Camera and Eye Camera

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