Visual search in typically developing toddlers and toddlers with Fragile X or Williams syndrome


Gaia Scerif or Annette Karmiloff-Smith, Neurocognitive Development Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK; e-mail: or


Visual selective attention is the ability to attend to relevant visual information and ignore irrelevant stimuli. Little is known about its typical and atypical development in early childhood. Experiment 1 investigates typically developing toddlers’ visual search for multiple targets on a touch-screen. Time to hit a target, distance between successively touched items, accuracy and error types revealed changes in 2- and 3-year-olds’ vulnerability to manipulations of the search display. Experiment 2 examined search performance by toddlers with Fragile X syndrome (FXS) or Williams syndrome (WS). Both of these groups produced equivalent mean time and distance per touch as typically developing toddlers matched by chronological or mental age; but both produced a larger number of errors. Toddlers with WS confused distractors with targets more than the other groups; while toddlers with FXS perseverated on previously found targets. These findings provide information on how visual search typically develops in toddlers, and reveal distinct search deficits for atypically developing toddlers.