OUR RESEARCH

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     Learning from Different Types of Media     

In our research funded by the National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation, we explore young children’s learning from different sources of information, including real-life demonstrations, observational media (e.g., video), interactive media (e.g., apps, digital games), and eBooks. We find that when the information is relatively simple (e.g., a single word), young children may learn more from interactive apps than from noninteractive video; however, when information is more complicated (e.g., early math skills), children appear to learn more by simply watching a video than interacting with an app or digital game. In our current studies, We are following up on this research to compare different types of interactivity (e.g., eBook features that draw attention toward relevant vs. irrelevant information) and to determine the extent to which visual attention (as measured by eye movements) and cognitive skills (e.g., working memory, inhibitory control) moderate toddlers’ learning from touchscreen devices.

Selected publications:

Choi, K., & Kirkorian, H. L. (2016). Touch or watch to learn? Toddlers' object retrieval using contingent and noncontingent videoPsychological Science.

Kirkorian, H. L., Choi, K., & Pempek, T. A. (2016). Toddlers' word learning from contingent and noncontingent video on touch screens. Child Development, 87, 405-413.

Choi, K., Kirkorian, H. L., & Pempek, T. A. (2017). Understanding the transfer deficit: Contextual mismatch,proactive interference, and working memory affect toddlers’ video-based transfer. Child Development. DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12810.

Recent conference presentations:

Etta, R. A., Kirkorian, H. L., Choi, K. (2017, April). Preschoolers’ learning from children’s books: Effectsof platform and interactivity. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Austin, TX.


     Visual Attention to Screen Media     

We are interested in whether there are age differences in visual selective attention to video (e.g., as measured by eye movements) and whether such differences predict learning. We have found that it is not until the middle of the second year of life that children begin to show that they understand television narratives by looking longer toward television that is incomprehensible than television that has been made incomprehensible (e.g., putting the shots in a random sequence). In more recent studies, we recorded eye movements during video viewing. We find dramatic growth in systematic processing of televised narratives over the first few years of life and that established viewers deploy top-down strategies when watching video. We also investigated whether visual attention differs for video versus in-person demonstrations and whether such differences predict toddlers' learning; findings indicated that toddlers spend more time watching learning events on video than those that are in person, suggesting that they need more time to process video information than in-person information. Some new studies examine visual attention and cognitive control by toddlers while watching noninteractive video versus using mobile applications.

Selected publications:

Pempek, T. A., Kirkorian, H. L., Richards, J. E., Anderson, D. R., Lund, A. F., & Stevens, M. (2010). Video comprehensibility and attention in very young children. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1283-1293.

Kirkorian, H. L., Anderson, D. R., & Keen, R. (2012). Age differences in online processing of video: An eye movement study. Child Development, 83, 497-507DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01719.x

Kirkorian, H. L., Lavigne, H. J., Hanson, K. G., Troseth, G. L., Demers, L., B., & Anderson, D. R. (2016). Video deficit in toddlers' object retrieval: What eye movements reveal about online cognitionInfancy, 21, 37-64.

Kirkorian, H. L., & Anderson, D. R. (in press). Effect of sequential video shot comprehensibility on attentionalsynchrony: A comparison of children and adults. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Recent conference presentations:

Kirkorian, H. L., Choi, K., Etta, R., & Yoo, S. H. (2016, October). Selective attention to interactive andnoninteractive video: An eye movement study. Poster presented at the SRCD Special Topic Meeting: Technology and Media in Children’s Development, Irvine, CA.


     Impact of Television on Toy Play and Parent-Child Interaction     

Our research on media impact emphasizes the distinction between foreground television (i.e., programs to which children pay substantial attention, often child-directed) and background television (i.e., programs to which children pay little attention, often designed for older viewers). We have found that when an adult-directed television program is playing in the background, there is a substantial reduction in the quantity and quality of both toddler play (e.g., amount of play, focused attention) and parent-toddler interactions (e.g., number of words spoken to the child, amount of active engagement in child's toy play). These studies suggest two mechanisms by which background television may have a negative impact on subsequent cognitive development: reduced sustained attention during toy play and poorer quality of social interactions with parents. We have also found that the effects of background television are greatest when the television show contains a lot of salient visual and auditory features. In our current studies, we are examining children's physiological responses (e.g., heart rate) to child- and adult-directed background television, as well as the individual characteristics (e.g., temperament, attentional control) that might make predict more susceptibility to background television.

Selected publications:

Pempek, T. A., Kirkorian, H. L., & Anderson, D. R. (2014). The impact of background television on the quantity and quality of parents' child-directed language. Journal of Children and Media, 8, 211-222. 

Kirkorian, H.L., Pempek, T.A., Murphy, L.A., Schmidt, M.E., & Anderson, D.R. (2009). The impact of background television on parent-child interaction. Child Development, 80, 1350-1359.

Schmidt, M.E., Pempek, T.A., Kirkorian, H.L., Frankenfield, A.F., & Anderson, D.R. (2008). The effects of background television on the toy play behavior of very young children. Child Development, 79, 1137-1151.

Recent conference presentations:

Choi, K., & Kirkorian, H.L., (2013, April), The impact of background television and parent-child interaction on young children’s toy play. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA.

Yoo S. H., Pempek, T. A., & Kirkorian, H. L. (2017, April). The impact of background TV on toddlers’ play and attention: An examination of formal-feature density. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Austin, TX.


Copyright Notice: The documents distributed here have been provided as a means to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work on a noncommercial basis. Single copies of any article or chapter can be downloaded and printed only for the reader's personal research and study. Copyright and all rights therein are maintained by the authors or by other copyright holders, notwithstanding that they have offered their works here electronically. It is understood that all persons copying this information will adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. These works may not be reposted or redistributed in any electronic or printed form without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.