Table-top visual search ability for children

WESC Foundation published a research report in the British Journal of Visual Impairment earlier this year detailing the design and development of a functional visual search test for children.

Searching is a fundamental skill involved in many daily activities. We search in order to find things that are important to us, such as a familiar person in a crowd or a favourite toy in a toy box. The ability to visually search can be drastically reduced by impaired vision, perception, or cognition. Reduced visual search ability itself greatly lowers quality of life, as daily activities become more challenging. 

Visual search training can help people  with impaired visual fields to learn eye movement strategies that compensate for their partial loss of vision. WESC Foundation worked with scientists and psychologists at the University of Lincoln to create their own visual search training game for children and young people, called Eyelander. Eyelander combines a video game approach with visual search training to keep the learning process fun but effective. 

To test how useful the visual search training was the research team recorded performance on tests both in the game and in the real world. Using a range of table-top tasks that involved visually searching they were able to show that improvements in skills learned while playing the game transferred to activities in the real world. 

 To show how reliable the table-top test was the research team asked over one hundred children to try them out at the Summer Scientist event hosted by the University of Lincoln. This week-long research event was a celebratory experience to show children that science can be fun and to inspire a new generation of scientists. The children and families who attended were able take part in a range of age-appropriate psychology experiments, including trying out our table-top test. 

Recording the performance of such a large number of primary-aged children allowed the research team to show how visual search ability improves with age. The developmental trajectory was smooth and it was possible to calculate age related percentiles that could be used to detect whether a child had significantly reduced visual search ability.  

The report and details of the tasks involved in the test are currently available to read at the British Journal of Visual Impairment. 

REPORT: The Table-top Visual Search Ability Test for children and young people: Normative response time data from typically developing children