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Department of Cognitive Science

Seminar Abstract

The potential of pupillometry in child language research. (CLaS-CCD Research Colloquium Series)

Speaker : Dr Katalin Tamasi, Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Singapore University of Technology and Design.
Date : 27th of October 2017, 12:30PM until 1:30PM
Location : Australian Hearing Hub, Level 3, 3.610, Macquarie University.

    Pupillometry is a method highly suitable for assessing the performance of young children, being based on an involuntary psycho-sensory reflex, i.e., pupil dilation (Laeng, Sirois, & Gredebback, 2012; Loewenfeld, 1993; Nieuwenhuis, Geus, & Aston-Jones, 2011). In pupillometry, the eye-tracking equipment is used to measure change in pupil size over time, complementing the analysis of gaze fixations. The degree of pupil dilation has been found to be an index of (short-term) working memory load and hence task difficulty, as shown by digit span tasks (Kahneman & Beatty, 1966), mental rotation tasks (Just, Carpenter, & Miyake, 2003), mathematical calculations (Hess & Polt, 1960), and tasks manipulating attentional allocation (Karatekin, 2004). More recently, pupillometry has proven to be a promising method in child language research as it has detected children’s sensitivity to acoustic (dis-)similarity (Hochmann & Papeo, 2014), semantic incongruity (Kuipers & Thierry, 2011, 2013) as well as featural manipulations resulting in mispronunciations (Fritzsche & Höhle, 2015; Tamasi et al., 2017a; Tamasi, 2017). The talk will highlight aspects that makes pupillometry an especially appealing tool in child language research, demonstrating how pupillometry can be used to probe lexical knowledge, providing a minimally demanding alternative to other extensively applied paradigms. It therefore proves to be a readily available, low-cost and reliable method with which to conduct speech processing research with infants and young children. As such, pupillometry holds promise to accelerate the rate of new discovery in this important field.

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