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Eye tracking technology used to assess the educational disadvantages of babies in low income families

By Nuffield Foundation

Differences in infants’ processing of visual and auditory information related to socio-economic status are already discernible by 6-7 months of age, according to new Nuffield-funded research from the University of East London (UEL).

Researchers used state of the art eye-tracking technology to assess attention in babies from low income families.

The report summarises findings from a set of studies undertaken in East London Children’s Centres that have important implications for future approaches to screening and intervention of children from disadvantaged areas who are most at risk for poor educational outcomes.

A large screening study performed with a final sample of 174 infants aimed to examine the feasibility of using eye-tracking assessments in community settings. The specific aim was to improve understanding of early cognitive development in infants growing up in low socio-economic status families, as well as to encourage these families to participate and to learn more about their babies.

The report also includes the description of a separate, follow-up assessment in which the infants originally assessed as part of the screening study were followed up at 2 years of age. This identified a number of associations between infants’ performance on the eye-tracking tasks at 6-7 months and their language outcomes at 2 years – suggesting that the early eye-tracking assessments during infancy can successfully predict children’s subsequent language development outcomes.

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We improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in EducationWelfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We offer our grant-holders the freedom to frame questions and enable new thinking. Our research must stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny, but we understand that to be successful in effecting change, it also needs to be relevant to people’s experience.

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