Even though babies might seem these passive, helpless and clumsy creatures, they are in full control of their eye movements from around 4 months of age. This enables them to look into the world and actively seek out things that are interesting to them.
As cognitive scientists we can study their eye movement patterns to learn something about the development of their early language and social communication skills, as well as about their cognitive development.
We are using eye-tracking (as well as behavioural) tasks to look at infant object interaction. More specifically, we want to know how infants look at and interact with objects, how they look at other people interacting with objects, how they imitate these actions, and at whether knowledge of the function of the object changes the infants’ looking patterns and/or actions.
In another project we are investigating whether it is possible to make a diagnostic and/or intervention tool out of an eye-tracker. We do this by taking eye-tracking equipment from the research lab into the ‘real world’ (ie. Sure Start Children’s Centres).
We also look at the possible effects of socio-economic, linguistic, and ethnic background of the caregivers, to see whether this already makes a difference at a very young age in terms of the development of infants’ language and social communication skills.
For more info please contact Dr Haiko Ballieux.