Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed research is designed to analyze the processes underlying the
changes in infant visual attention that occur as a function of experience
with a stimulus. Preliminary studies show that at least two independent
processes are involved: A memorial process controlling response decrements
(habituation), and an arousal process controlling response increments
(sensitization). In contrast to most previous work, which emphasized only
the memorial process, the present project focuses on the sensitization
process. One avenue of research will identify the stimulus determinants of
the sensitization process. A technique called linear systems analysis is
employed, which considers the "fit" between the physical properties of the
stimulus and the characteristics of the infant's visual system (as
estimated from contrast sensitivity). The most sensitizing stimuli may be
those that closely match the infant's perceptual capabilities. Another
line of research will investigate the contribution of sensitization to
visual attention of different aged infants. A relatively high level of
sensitization could have as much to do with the slow rate of response
decrement observed with very young infants as does any memorial deficit.
Finally, the interaction between sensitization and learning processes will
be studied. Sensitization prolongs visual fixation and may, therefore,
lead to better encoding of visual pattern stimuli. If two (or more)
processes modulate infant visual attention, then the interpretation of
infant visual fixation data must be reconsidered: Change in visual
attention reflect not only cognitive factors, but also sensory and
motivational factors. Researchers interested in the clinical use of visual
fixation data must take into account the multiple determining factors
Effective start/end date4/1/856/30/95


  • National Institutes of Health
  • National Institutes of Health
  • National Institutes of Health


  • Medicine(all)


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