Even by three months of age, babies are visually able to locate objects that stand out from a group, a York University study has found.
For example, an infant can pick a red umbrella in a sea of grey ones. “This indicates that babies at a very young age are able to selectively extract information from the environment, just like adults.” Previously it was unknown how early this form of visual attention developed in infants. For the current study, both infants (34) and adults (10) were presented with certain visual search task, to measure the latency of eye movements in hundreds of milliseconds.
The study, “Search Asymmetry and Eye Movements in Infants and Adults,” recently published online in the journal of Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics revealed that infants, like adults, were able to pick out a single R character among increasingly larger groups of P characters. This is because R is considered to have a distinguishing, unique feature that stands out. This study showed that children are just as adept at locating specific stimuli among competing and distracting stimuli in their environment as adults.
The study also looked at what happened when infants and adults were given a P among varying sized groups of Rs. In this case, the infants were less efficient at finding the differing letter without a distinguishing feature. This is bottom-up attention, where information analysis requires distinguishing feature. On the other hand, top-down attention ignores known stimuli and is looking for something specific, something that stands out, which makes infants easier to find R character among large group of P characters. The aim of the present study was to improve understanding of infants’ ability to selectively attend to particular items in the presence of competing stimuli. Source