Infant and Child Research

Infant and child researchers use eye tracking to study perceptual, cognitive, and social emotional development from birth through early adulthood.

Why use eye tracking in infant and child research?

Eye tracking plays an important role in gathering data about how children interact with the people and the world around them. This technology is the most unobtrusive and reliable way to collect eye movement data from infants and children who typically can't sit still for long periods of time and have short attention spans. Using an eye tracker, developmental researchers can gain a deeper understanding of when specific capabilities emerge and how they change over time.

Here is a video from our customer Uppsala Child and Baby Lab. In the video Professor Gustaf Gredebäck explains the value of eye tracking, the different types of research that are conducted at the lab, some of the different research paradigms that they employ and finally where eye tracking could go in the future.

Researchers can use this tool to investigate spatial relations, problem solving, number sense, language acquisition, and cause and effect relationships, as well as social interaction and gaze following. Eye tracking data can help explore infants' ability to categorize visual, linguistic, and auditory events, and scan dynamic human faces.

Among older children and adolescents, researchers study cognitive processes like executive function and social interaction. Due to the more portable, lightweight design of today's eye tracking systems, these studies can now be carried out in real-world environments.

Products and services

Tobii Pro eye trackers are known for their exceptional tolerance of substantial, dynamic head movement which allows for minimal restrictions on the subjects' natural actions. This makes them ideal for infant and child studies, as well as atypical populations.

Tobii Pro Spectrum

The Tobii Pro Spectrum eye tracking platform offers multiple sampling rate options up to 600 Hz, which accommodates everything from fixation-based research to studies with more intense requirements on data granularity and time-based measurements. This sampling rate allows researchers to study fine eye movements such as saccades, micro-saccades, tremor, fixations, or capture physiological indicators (e.g. pupil size and blinks).

The system tolerates large head movements, making it ideal for studies with infants and children.

The Pro Spectrum's widescreen high-definition display supports a broad range of demanding visual presentations. From social interaction to preferential looking paradigms, image and video stimuli are rendered with clarity.

The TTL port and precise timing enable seamless synchronization capabilities with external biometric data sources such as EEG and GSR, providing a more holistic view of behavior.

Learn more about the Tobii Pro Spectrum.

An infant in front of Tobii Pro Spectrum eye tracker looks at a researcher with poppets

Other screen-based eye trackers

A screen-based eye tracking system can be used for a broad spectrum of cognition and psychology studies. The compact form-factor allows you to collect eye tracking data wherever your participants are, rather than a typical lab setting, if needed.

Learn more about these screen-based eye trackers

Tobii Pro Glasses 2

This wearable eye tracking system is ideal for research of real-world objects and environments. Tobii Pro Glasses 2 is lightweight and unobtrusive which allows the wearer to behave naturally. For example, they can be used with school children for conducting research in classrooms and other real-world settings.

Learn more about Tobii Pro Glasses 2.

Tobii Pro Lab

The Pro Spectrum works with Tobii Pro Lab, a versatile biometric software platform designed to meet the highest demands in different research scenarios with exact timing accuracy. This software supports the entire process - from test design and recording, to the interpretation and presentation of results while offering the ability to sync with other biometric data sources. A dedicated calibration for infants and children makes the process fast and easy, reducing the amount of time needed for the set-up of each child.

Stimuli can be shown on screen for as short as 50 milliseconds, making it suitable for research requiring very high precision in timing. When stimuli are presented, TTL signals are sent to sync the stimuli presentation and data recording with external research systems. This capability will allow researchers to ask more complex questions, for example, when adding eye tracking to their EEG research.

Tobii Pro SDK is available for researchers who wish to develop niche applications or scripts for use with the Pro Spectrum.

Learn more about the Tobii Pro Lab.


Autism Spectrum Disorder and Language Development

New York University’s Learn Lab uses eye tracking to study the learning mechanisms underlying language acquisition in children who are typically developing as well as children on the autism spectrum. Read more

Uppsala University

Eye tracking is used in developmental psychology to explain infants' growth and transformation in cognitive, social and emotional abilities. At the Department of Psychology's Child and Baby Lab at Uppsala University in Sweden, Claes von Hofsten and his fellow researchers use eye tracking to measure development of infants' object representation and study the differences in social interactions in children with typical development and children with autism. Read more

Osaka University

Researchers at Osaka University developed a quantitative method for identifying individuals with autism by analyzing temporo-spatial gaze patterns, which could help experts diagnose the issue earlier. Read more

University of Rochester

The Rochester Baby Lab used eye tracking to test whether infants could make use of the information contained in speech disfluencies, such as "uh" and "um". Read more

  • Paukner, A., Slonecker, E. M., Murphy, A. M., Wooddell, L. J., & Dettmer, A. M. (2017). Sex and rank affect how infant rhesus macaques look at faces. Developmental Psychobiology.
  • van den Bosch, L. J., Segers, E., & Verhoeven, L. (2018). Online processing of causal relations in beginning first and second language readers. Learning and Individual Differences, 61, 59–67.
  • Kis, A., Hernádi, A., Miklósi, B., Kanizsár, O., & Topál, J. (2017). The Way Dogs (Canis familiaris) Look at Human Emotional Faces Is Modulated by Oxytocin. An Eye-Tracking Study. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 11.

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