Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Lauren Slone, Psychology

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Would you consider yourself a visual learner? Many of us have a sense that what we learn depends on what we see. But how exactly does visual learning happen? How does that change as we grow older? We examined how visual attention changes across development and how that relates to word learning. Previous research on word learning has proposed various ways that people may learn words. However, there is a gap in understanding how visual attention might be crucial for this task, despite the fact that many words are labels for things we see. Previous literature highlights connections between higher recalling ability and gaze direction towards larger, or visually dominant, objects along with the ability to correctly match new objects with unknown words (McMurray et al., 2012). We will begin to answer these questions by examining how infants and adults attend to new objects, and how this relates to their ability to learn those objects’ names. In this experiment, participants will be placed in front of a screen where they will be shown a series of unknown objects and hear names for some of those objects. Eye tracking technology will keep track of where on the screen they gaze during this process. We will examine how infants and adults allocate their attention by comparing the percentage of overall looking time spent on the named objects versus distraction objects. We will also test word learning so that we can compare the types of visual attention that led to the best word learning, and whether this may change across development. We hypothesize that when participants spend a greater percentage of their looking time on the target object, then, they will show greater accuracy in word referent pairing during test trials. This study is ongoing; results and conclusions will be shared at the celebration.


This work supported by the Hope College Department of Psychology.

Title on poster differs from abstract booklet. Poster title: Visual Attention Across Development

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