Eye tracking indices of mental attentional load in children and adults
Eye tracking is a non-invasive method that has proven invaluable in studying attention, cognitive control and other higher order mental processes. The term mental attentional capacity was introduced by Juan Pascual-Leone in the Theory of Constructive Operators within the framework of a neo-Piagetian approach to cognitive development, where it is also known as the M-operator. It corresponds to the number of schemes that can be maintained and processed in the focus of mental attention (MA) and thus could be interpreted as a maturational component of working memory. To our knowledge, no eye tracking studies have been conducted so far with parametric measures of mental attentional capacity, which involve evaluating the effect on mental attentional load on eye movements. In the current study, groups of adults and children completed all levels of MA load in two interference conditions (high and low). The results of this study show that the eye movements of adults and children during a cognitive task are affected differently by MA load.