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Developing attentional control in naturalistic dynamic road crossing situations

Jean-Charles, Geraldine, Caldara, Roberto, Miellet, Sebastien and Nicholls, Victoria (2019) Developing attentional control in naturalistic dynamic road crossing situations.
In the last 20 years, there has been increasing interest in studying visual attentional processes under more natural conditions. In the present study, we propose to determine the critical age at which children show similar to adult performance and attentional control in a visually guided task; in a naturalistic dynamic and socially relevant context: road crossing. We monitored visual exploration and crossing decisions in adults and children aged between 5 and 15 while they watched road traffic videos containing a range of traffic densities with or without pedestrians. 5-10 year old (y/o) children showed less systematic gaze patterns. More specifically, adults and 11-15 y/o children look mainly at the vehicles' appearing point, which is an optimal location to sample diagnostic information for the task. In contrast, 5-10 y/os look more at socially relevant stimuli and attend to moving vehicles further down the trajectory when the traffic density is high. Critically, 5-10 y/o children also make an increased number of crossing decisions compared to 11-15 y/os and adults. Our findings reveal a critical shift around 10 y/o in attentional control and crossing decisions in a road crossing task.
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