Individual Differences in Infant Visual Attention: Are Short Lookers Faster Processors or Feature Processors?


  • The authors thank Deborah Silverman and Michelle Cozad for assistance in data collection, Michelle Knoll for assistance in subject recruitment and scheduling, and Mary D. Cohen and the staff of the KU Regents Center for their cooperation. We are especially grateful to the families of the infants from the greater Kansas City metropolitan area who participated in these studies. These results were presented at the November 1989 meeting of the Psychonomic Society in Atlanta, and at the April 1990 meeting of the International Society for Infant Studies in Montreal. This work was supported by federal (MH43246-01) and institutional (Biomedical Support Grant 4309) grants to the senior author.

Address correspondence and requests for reprints to John Colombo, Department of Human Development, 4001 Dole Human Development Center, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045-2133.


Individual differences in the duration of infants' visual fixations are reliable and stable and have been linked to differential cognitive performance; short-looking infants typically perform better than long-looking infants. 4 experiments tested the possibility of whether short lookers' superiority on perceptual-cognitive tasks is attributable to attention to the featural details of visual stimuli, or simply to differences in the speed or efficiency of visual processing. To do this, the performance of long- and short-looking 4-month-olds was examined on separate discrimination tasks that could be solved only by processing either featural or global information. The global task was easier than the featural task, but as the amount of time allotted for infants to solve either type of task was decreased, short lookers' performance was superior to that of long lookers. These results thus lend support to a speed or efficiency of stimulus processing interpretation of infant fixation duration.