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    The association of early touchscreen media use with the development of visual attention and executive function

    Vaz Portugal Da Silva, Ana Maria (2020) The association of early touchscreen media use with the development of visual attention and executive function. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Attention plays a pivotal role in information processing by filtering the potential information available based on individual goals, states, and past experiences. Early attention control is thought to underpin and support executive functions (EFs), which in turn are predictive of later behavioural outcomes. The development of attention and EF is partly subject to environmental influences, such as the use of digital media. There is a rapid increase in accessibility and usability of mobile touchscreen devices (i.e. smartphones and tablets) in the family environment, but rigorous scientific research investigating the impact on the developing mind lags behind the widespread usage. To address this, children with different levels of touchscreen use were followed longitudinally at 12 months, 18 months, and 3.5 years, and tested on attention control (bottom-up, and top-down), and EF (updating, shifting, and inhibiting). Children with high touchscreen use were faster on single (i.e. pop-out) visual search, with the amount of concurrent use associated with the speed of bottom-up attention in a linear manner. This saliency bias was repeatedly found on saccadic control tasks, where steady longitudinal high use was associated with a quickening of attention to peripheral salient onsets with a resulting detriment to top-down performance, i.e. disengagement and inhibition of attention. Finally, top-down difficulties were also seen in EF tasks in high users at 3.5 years, particularly in processes of updating and shifting between abstract mental sets. These results point to an influence of touchscreens use on the emerging attention and EF systems, in a way that experience of salient and contingent digital content elicits automatic biases to bottom-up processing, and displaces competency of top-down control and/or increases reliance on stimulus-response pairings. Future studies are needed to demonstrate causality, and to understand long-term trajectories and the interplay between bottom-up and top-down processes over time.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2020 14:36
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 14:21


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