How differential guidance of attention shapes infants' visual cortical processing

Anna Andrea Bánki, Moritz Köster, Stefanie Hoehl

In the first year of life, infants show a significant development in their ability to selectively attend to objects or events in the environment. This ability has critical importance in early cognitive functioning, since attention is strongly related to memory and learning (Reynolds, 2015). Previous work has shown that social interactions influence infants’ attention: when looking at novel objects, infants’ neural responses increased following joint attention and eye contact with an adult (Hoehl et al, 2014; Striano et al., 2006; Yu & Smith, 2016).


However, it is not yet established whether social interactions can have a long-lasting influence on infants’ visual processing during early development. To better understand this question, this study assesses if differential guidance of attention can shift infants’ visual attention to object versus background of a visual scene. To measure infants’ visual cortical processing non-verbally, we established in a former EEG study (Köster et al., 2017) that visual processing of object versus background could be assessed in the EEG of children by using a frequency tagging approach. This is, presenting object and background at different driving frequencies elicits separate evoked responses for each, object and background.


In the current electroencephalogram (EEG) study, 11 to 13-month-old infants (N=40) watched flickering natural images with an objects in front of a background. Object and background were flickered at different driving frequencies (5.66 and 8.5 Hz, counterbalanced) while infants' visual cortical processing was recorded with EEG. We applied a between-group (object/background), pre-post design with a training phase in between: in the pre- and post-phases, infants observed the scenes. During training, an experimenter guided the infants’ attention by consistently pointing either to the object or the background (according to group). In the post-phase, new natural images additional to previous images were also shown.


First we tested if differential guidance of attention shapes infants’ visual processing (increased evoked responses for object/background) during the training phase. Next, we will investigate whether infants' visual processing changes from the pre- to the post-phase, by comparing respective evoked responses to object versus background. Additionally, we will assess if differential guidance of attention affects infants’ visual processing in a persistent manner, lasting beyond the immediate joint attention interaction (training phase). For that, we analyse if alterations of visual processing generalise to new natural images in the post-phase. In this poster presentation, we will present the preliminary data of N=20 infants with regard to the main hypothesis that differential guidance of attention shapes infants' perceptual processing in visual cortical networks.


Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology
External organisation(s)
Freie Universität Berlin (FU)
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501005 Developmental psychology
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