Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The image-scratch paradigm: a new paradigm for evaluating infants' motivated gaze control

Our project's most recent paper, that I had the pleasure to co-author, has appeared in Nature's Scientific Reports. It introduces a new experimental paradigm to assess infants' skill to grasp the effects of their actions and use them appropriately. Not an easy thing, since infants' motor abilities are not very versatile and precise. So even if their brains have figured out the effects of their actions and when to take them, they might not be able to execute them well enough - well enough for an experimenter to figure out what they are up to. Their eyes, however, they can control on a low level very early, which opens chances to measure their general ability to get and utilize their actions' effects.
  • Miyazaki, M., H. Takahashi, M. Rolf, H. Okada, and T. Omori, "The image-scratch paradigm: a new paradigm for evaluating infants' motivated gaze control", Scientific reports 4(5498), 06/2014. (online, pdf
Abstract Human infants show spontaneous behaviours such as general movement, goal-directed behaviour, and self-motivated behaviour from a very early age. However, it is unclear how these behaviours are organised throughout development. A major hindrance to empirical investigation is that there is no common paradigm for all ages that can circumvent infants' underdeveloped verbal and motor abilities. Here, we propose a new paradigm, named the image-scratch task, using a gaze-contingent technique that is adaptable to various extents of motor ability. In this task, participants scratch off a black layer on a display to uncover pictures beneath it by using their gaze. We established quantitative criteria for spontaneous eye-movement based on adults' gaze-data and demonstrated that our task is useful for evaluating eye-movements motivated by outcome attractiveness in 8-month-olds. Finally, we discuss the potential of this paradigm for revealing the mechanisms and developmental transitions underlying infants' spontaneous and intentional behaviours.

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