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A new look at the developmental profile of visual endogenous orienting

Oriane Landry, Katherine A Johnson, Sarah J Fleming, Sheila G Crewther, Philippe A Chouinard
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 2019 March 12, 183: 158-171
There is a long-standing assumption that covert measurement of orienting, the shifting of the "mind's eye" independent of a saccade to a location in space, is a more "pure" measure of underlying attention than overt measurement of orienting. Testing attention covertly often relies on target detection tasks, which depend on making a decision about when and where a target has appeared and what is the appropriate action, all of which are potential confounds in measuring attention in children. This study cross-sectionally examined developmental profiles at ages 6-12  years of endogenous visual orienting. We used two tasks: one that measured orienting with a traditional covert attention button press response and one that measured orienting with eye tracking to measure overt saccades. The results obtained from the two orienting tasks demonstrate that each task measures distinct underlying processes with clear developmental profiles. Orienting, when measured by overt saccades, may be mature by 6 years of age, whereas the more complex manual response selection skills required in manual reaction time covert attention tasks continue to develop through middle childhood.


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