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    Visual motherese? Signal-to-noise ratios in toddler-directed television

    Wass, S.V. and Smith, Tim J. (2015) Visual motherese? Signal-to-noise ratios in toddler-directed television. Developmental Science 18 (1), pp. 24-37. ISSN 1363-755x.

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    Abstract

    Younger brains are noisier information processing systems; this means that information for younger individuals has to allow clearer differentiation between those aspects that are required for the processing task in hand (the ‘signal’) and those that are not (the ‘noise’). We compared toddler-directed and adult-directed TV programmes (TotTV/ATV). We examined how low-level visual features (that previous research has suggested influence gaze allocation) relate to semantic information, namely the location of the character speaking in each frame. We show that this relationship differs between TotTV and ATV. First, we conducted Receiver Operator Characteristics analyses and found that feature congestion predicted speaking character location in TotTV but not ATV. Second, we used multiple analytical strategies to show that luminance differentials (flicker) predict face location more strongly in TotTV than ATV. Our results suggest that TotTV designers have intuited techniques for controlling toddler attention using low-level visual cues. The implications of these findings for structuring childhood learning experiences away from a screen are discussed.

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