Visual attention in infancy: Using online webcam recordings as a proof of concept
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Many infant studies have small and homogenic samples, which leads to low statistical power, low statistical conclusion validity, and low external validity; hence, the conclusions drawn in these studies might not be representative to the general population. To resolve such limitations, the ManyBabies Consortium aims to develop universal methodological frameworks to replicate key findings in developmental studies with large, heterogenic samples. This experimental pilot study (n = 16) of the ManyBabies-AtHome project examined whether it is feasible to track 8- to 10-months-old infants’ visual attention in their home environment using remote webcam recordings, to replicate findings of infants’ preference for dynamic over static stimuli. Additionally, it was explored whether one of the two elaborated preferential looking designs, subsequential or side-by-side, suits this remote preferential looking testing framework better. In accordance with the hypotheses, this study showed that infants’ preference for dynamic stimuli could be replicated using remote webcam recordings. Moreover, no clear distinction in suitability for one of the two designs was found, with good and excellent inter-rater reliability scores for the designs, and spatial location of stimuli on the screen could be accurately determined by observers based on average total looking-times. Thus, it seems that visual attention can be examined using remote visual preference paradigms, which can possibly enhance the validity of future infant studies through increase of sample sizes and heterogeneity of samples.