Individual and Developmental Differences in Disengagement of Fixation in Early Infancy



The current study investigated whether individual and developmental differences in look duration are correlated with the latency for infants to disengage fixation from a visual stimulus. Ninety-four infants (52 3-month-olds, 42 4-month-olds) were tested in a procedure that measured ocular reaction time to shift fixation from a central target to a peripheral target under conditions in which the central target either remained present (“competition” condition) or was removed from the display (“noncompetition” condition). Look duration was correlated with disengagement latency; longer-looking infants were slower than shorter-looking infants to shift fixation to the peripheral target on competition trials, but not noncompetition trials. Results were similar for 3- and 4-month-olds, although 3-month-olds showed slower latencies on all trials. Furthermore, long-looking infants were not consistently slower, but rather showed greater variability in their response latencies under conditions that required disengagement of fixation. The results support the position that developmental and individual differences in look duration are linked to the development of the neural attentional systems that control the ability to disengage, or inhibit, visual fixation.