Eye-tracking is widely used in research of attentional strategies in tasks with visual representations. Strategies improve with learning and many have examined differences in attention allocation between experts and novices. Research show that when math problems are presented on the screen with response options, novices fixated more on response options that included distractors, whereas experts fixated more on the math problem and the correct answer. If experts and novices apply their attention on different parts of the scree these strategy differences would also be observable when comparing high and low performers. Participants (N = 26; 20-30 years), were non-math university majors who completed the Parametric Math Task (PMT; Konopkina, 2019) while their eye movements were recorded in a remote head-free-to-move mode. The PMT contains mathematical problems of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with three levels of difficulty. Individuals who scored above median were high performers and below were considered as low performers. Data were analysed by evaluating dwell time (total duration of fixation) to the math problem area (top of screen) and response options areas (bottom of screen). Results showed that high performers and low performers were significantly different in their dwell times for two interest areas: problem area and distractor responses (problem area: p = 0.029, Cohen’s d = 0.92; distractor responses: p = 0.018, Cohen’s d = 0.99). Findings indicate that high performers spent significantly more time on the math problem area of the screen whereas low performers spent more time on distractor options. In educational practice, knowledge of looking times and locations may be indicative of strategies used by the problem solvers.
White matter makes up about fifty percent of the human brain. Maturation of white matter accompanies biological development and undergoes the most dramatic changes during childhood and adolescence. Despite the advances in neuroimaging techniques, controversy concerning spatial, and temporal patterns of myelination, as well as the degree to which the microstructural characteristics of white matter can vary in a healthy brain as a function of age, gender and cognitive abilities still exists. In a selective review we describe methods of assessing myelination and evaluate effects of age and gender in nine major fiber tracts, highlighting their role in higher-order cognitive functions. Our findings suggests that myelination indices vary by age, fiber tract, and hemisphere. Effects of gender were also identified, although some attribute differences to methodological factors or social and learning opportunities. Findings point to further directions of research that will improve our understanding of the complex myelination- behavior relation across development that may have implications for educational and clinical practice.
It is widely accepted that higher order thinking, such as working memory and mathematical problem solving are associated with activation in the prefrontal cortex. Thinking about thinking, however, often referred to as meta-cognition is less well understood. Converging evidence suggests that the function of the prefrontal cortex is also key for meta-cognitive judgments, particularly the most anterior part of the prefrontal cortex, Brodmann Area (BA) 10. The current research examined functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signal associated with BA 10 during metacognition related to self-ratings of mental effort exerted during mathematical operations. We analyzed data from young adult participants who solved addition problems with three levels of difficulty. Our results showed fMRI signal in BA 10 is modulated during the metacognition task, with the left BA 10 showing decreasing fMRI signal with difficulty, whereas the right BA 10 is more stable. These preliminary findings point to further directions for research that should consider rostrolateral and medial aspects of BA 10, and individual differences in performance.
Major discoveries in technology and science often rely on mathematical skills. Mathematical knowledge is founded on basic math problem solving such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Research shows that problem solving is associated with eye movements that index allocation of attention. Machine learning has been used with eye-tracking metrics to predict performance on real-life user efficiency tasks and classic puzzle games. Critically, no study to date has evaluated eye-tracking metrics associated with mathematical operations using machine learning approaches to classify trial correctness and predict task difficulty level. Participants (n = 26, 20-30 years) viewed mathematical problems in three levels of difficulty indexed by 1-, 2-, and 3-digit problems along with four possible answers, while their eye movements were being recorded. Eye-tracking data were acquired with EyeLink Portable Duo SR Research eye-tracker with 1ms temporal resolution (at 1000 Hz frequency) in remote head-free-to-move mode. Results show that trial correctness can be classified with a 0.81 ROC AUC score based on 5 fold cross-validation. Predicting task difficulty level of each trial was attained with 72% accuracy, which is significantly better than the random prediction (i.e., 50%). The most important features for both machine learning models include metrics associated with current pupil fixation, current saccade amplitudes, and current fixation duration. Theoretically, findings contribute to theories of mathematical cognition. Practically, algorithms can contribute to further research in mathematical problem solving and machine learning, which potentially has applications in education in terms of assessment and personalized learning.
Task difficulty reflects the mental demand of the task, whereas mental toughness (MT) is a measure of resilience and confidence of an individual to complete a task. Task difficulty and MT are intricately related; however, little is known about brain correlates of this relation. We investigate the relation between task difficulty and MT and its impact on parietal alpha oscillations using electroencephalography. Specifically, we hypothesized that parietal alpha effects enhance with task difficulty and low MT (MTQ48) leads to their decrease for levels of higher difficulty. Eighty participants completed the Sternberg task with 4 difficulty levels (3, 4, 5, 6 digits). The Sternberg task includes the following phases that leads to the following corresponding alpha power modulations: stimulus encoding (alpha power event-related desynchronization, aERD), retention (alpha synchronization, aERS) and decoding (aERD). Data were analyzed using mixed effects regression models. Results show that aERD, aERS and aERD increase with task difficulty. However, their dependency seems to reverse in the most subjectively difficult conditions in some subjects. Specifically, during the encoding period, parietal aERD was observed increased with task difficulty but was not affected by MT. This dependency may reflect cognitive load. During the retention period, parietal aERS first increased with task difficulty, however it decreased for the most difficult condition. This dependency may reflect the described phenomenon of the cognitive effort drop, although it was not affected by MT. During preparing and response, parietal aERD increased with accuracy decrease. However, low MT neutralized this dependency. This may reflect cognitive effort increasing in situations of uncertainty. Overall parietal alpha oscillations and cognitive performance are modulated by task difficulty and MT. Further research is needed to verify these effects with higher levels of difficulty.
Cognitively challenging tasks require complex coordination of information beyond visual input. Predicting accuracy on such tasks has potential applications in education and industry. Task difficulty is associated with increases in reaction time and variation in eye tracking indices. Critically, machine learning has not yet been used to predict accuracy on cognitive tasks with multiple difficulty levels. We report data on 57 (34 females; 20-30 years) participants who completed visuospatial tasks of mental attentional capacity with six levels of difficulty while their eye movements were recorded using EyeLink Portable Duo SR Research eye-tracker with 1ms temporal resolution (at 1000 Hz frequency) in remote head-free-to-move mode. Results show that task accuracy scores can be robustly predicted when all variables (e.g., eye-tracking, difficulty level and reaction time) are considered together (R2 = .80). Reaction time, difficulty level and eye tracking metrics are also effective independent predictors with R2 equaling .73, .58, and .36, respectively. Analyses for feature importance suggest eye-tracking indices with the most importance for the models include the number of fixations, number of saccades, duration of the current fixation and pupil size. Notably, our machine learning algorithms target a prediction question, rather than a classification one, and the current algorithm can be useful for future research and applications in other contexts where visuospatial processing is required. Theoretically, findings show common and distinct metrics that can inform theories of cognition and vision science.
Cognitive abilities are related to academic performance and professional success. Research shows that about 1–10% of individuals have outstanding cognitive abilities. Critically, theoretical and empirical criteria of assessing cognitive performance are understudied and less well understood. A measure of core cognitive performance is mental attentional capacity that reflects the number of items an individual can hold and manipulate in mind; quantitative changes in the development of mental attentional capacity have been theoretically defined. We examine normative performance, as well as theoretical and empirical criteria for identifying children with outstanding cognitive performance in early grades using a classic measure of mental-attentional capacity. Children in grades 1, 2, 3, and 4 (N = 277) completed the Figural Intersection Task (FIT). Results show that normative scores from Russian speaking children closely followed theoretical expectations for all grades and were in agreement with past empirical data. Criteria for over-performance were set to be +2 and +3 above theoretical expectations and empirical scores for each age group. Percentages close to those obtained in the literature were obtained primarily using the stricter criterion. Considerations for future research and practical implications are discussed.
Cognitive effort a subjective phenomenon, generally defined as the amount of sustained mental activity, exerted during a cognitive task. A well-established eye movement indice of cognitive effort is blink rate. Many studies show that in cognitive tasks that involve visual stimuli blink rate decreases as a function of difficulty (Maffei, & Angrilli, 2018). Working memory (WM) is a core cognitive ability and refers to the number of items or schemes that can be simultaneously held and manipulated in mind. While a great deal of studies have explored behavioral correlates of WM load and task complexity, little is known about how these relate to eye movements across development. We implement an eye-tracking paradigm to study effect of complexity and WM load on eye movements from a developmental perspective. 57 healthy adults (23 male., age = 23.25±3.6) and 26 children (10 male, age = 9.53±0.76) participated in the study. Eye-tracking data was recorded with the EyeLink Portable Duo, while participants performed the Colour Matching Task (Arsalidou et al., 2010). During the CMT the participant is shown a picture with multiple colours for 3 s. and gives a response at the following picture: are the colours same or different. CMT has 6 levels of WM load: the number of relevant colors and two levels of task complexity (low and high interference conditions). Analyses of variance showed a significant main effect of age group on blink rate (p < 0.01, F = 9.091, η2 = 0.009) with children making less blinks in all levels of WM load, as well as significant main effect of WM load (p < 0.001, F = 130.5, η2 = 0.021) with blink rate decreasing as WM load increased. No significant effects were observed for task complexity. Results will be discussed in terms of cognitive development and implications to education.
Working memory is involved in many cognitive processes, and it is essential in problem solving, manipulating temporary information and decision making. Critically little is known about the brain correlates of working memory capacity in children. In this study we examined brain correlates of working memory with functional neuroimaging in school-aged children.
School engagement influences multiple educational outcomes, including academic performance of students. Research shows that engaged students are more likely to demonstrate improved knowledge in various subjects and higher academic scores. Critically, school engagement assessments are usually performed in adolescence using self-ratings and fewer using teacher-ratings. Our project examines the relation of school engagement using self- and teacher-ratings and academic performance among primary school students in Russia. Specifically, we investigate which components of school engagement (i.e., behavioral, emotional or cognitive) is a stronger predictor of academic performance from both student’s and teacher’s perspective. Our findings can inform educational practice in understanding the mechanisms underlying academic performance and designing interventions to improve it.
Category labels affect people’s judgments regarding mental disorders which are unknown to them. Descriptions of these ‘unknown’ disorders that do have a name, are assumed by people to be more stable and having reasons to exist, when compared with the same descriptions of disorders - without a specific name . However, it is not clear whether this effect can be evoked by other linguistic parameters, for instance, by metaphors. We hypothesized that including a metaphor in the description of a mental disorder would lead to the same effect even without a category name. We replicated a study by Giffin and colleagues’ and added a new experimental condition in which participants read texts with the descriptions of a person’s unusual behaviour without the disorder's name, but with its metaphoric description. After reading the texts, participants assessed a few statements concerning some characteristics of the disorder. The results showed that the effect of a category label was replicated, and the metaphoric description also evoked a significant effect, but it was found in judgments of different characteristics of the disorder.
What is the relationship between the vocabulary of a person and the process of cognition? A lot of studies show that the nameability of labeling objects accelerates the category learning. We hypothesized that the presence of labels of the object’s features locations also helps learning new category rules. In the experiment the subjects learned to distinguish two fictitious illnesses with the images of symptoms, located in various places. We varied the location of the symptoms on a silhouette of a foot. In the condition of a high nameability of a location, the images of symptoms were located on those parts of foot, for which common labels exist (for example, a heel or a sole). In the condition of a low nameability, the images of symptoms were located on those parts of foot, for which the labels are rarely used (Achilles or an arch). The formation of the rule demanded finding a link between the location of the symptom and its image. According to the hypothesis, the location of category features in places, which have more convenient labels, will improve the success of learning the category rule, as opposed to location of the same features in places that do not have convenient labels. As a result, we’ve found that this hypothesis was confirmed: the subjects formed a rule in the condition of high nameability more successfully, than in the condition of low nameability. We explain this result with the following: the presence of convenient labels allows testing hypotheses while learning new categories more easily – matching the features with the feedback while determining the category rules. The results are discussed in the context of development in ontogenesis the ability to form categories.
The study examines framing effect of the metaphor on judgments about a category. It is also tested if the metaphor can increase objectivity of the category, that is, strengthen the effect of the categorical name. For these purposes the category of “depression” and related metaphors of “enemy” and “swamp” were chosen (these metaphors derived from the content analysis of the federal media from December 2018 till December 2019). According to the theory of conceptual metaphor, framing effect is caused by adding metaphorical statements into description of the category. It was found that the “swamp” metaphor as opposed to the “enemy” metaphor, reduced estimated guilt for a person who committed social misconduct due to depression. Both metaphors differentially reinforced the belief that “external help” is necessary to overcome depression. Namely, the “enemy” metaphor affected the assessment of judgments about the “depression” as a category, whereas the “swamp” metaphor influenced the assessment of judgments about an example – a depressive episode of a particular person. These results expand understanding of the framing effect of the metaphor by showing its dependence on the “level” of a judgment (category or example). Additionally, the study demonstrated that a metaphor combined with a categorical name can enhance the perceived “objectivity” of a category.
Here, we present the technique to determine the social rank in rats based on the quanti- tative analysis of sociometric matrices built using the data on the antagonistic relation- ships between the animals during competition for reward. We compare and evaluate the existing techniques and propose a new experimental model of the dominant behavior as- sessment in small groups of rats in laboratory conditions that considers the individual drinking activity of each rat, as well as the dyadic competitive relationships. The data analysis is based on the histograms of the drinking duration for rats, the ratio of the vic- tories and losses in dyads during the competition for access to drinking bowl, and the evaluation of the motivation to satisfy the thirst during the periods of experimental ses- sions. The approbation of the developed technique has demonstrated that the imple- mentation of these approaches allows for accurate determination of the social rank of each rat, as well as for monitoring of the dynamics of the formation, stability, and plas- ticity of social organization in the groups throughout the whole period of their existence. Therefore, this complex technique may help to determine the relationships between the hierarchical structure of the groups of social animals, their individual social rank, and various physiological, pharmacological, environmental, and other factors.
This article provides a review of the literature data on the association between personal characteristics belonging to the behavioural dominance system and various psychophysiological, hormonal, and neurobiological indices. Social and behavioural features characteristic of dominance and subordination are described. The review discusses the studies showing the relationship between the indices of dominant or subordinate behaviours and adaptive capacity as well as levels of trait and state anxiety of individuals in different social contexts. Further, the key hormonal mechanisms underlying social dominance are reviewed. The dual-hormone hypothesis of dominance regulation under social stress is illustrated through studies showing the correlation between the changes in adrenocortical and sexhormone levels and their joint effect on the regulation of hierarchical status. Individual characteristics of prevalence or balance between the behavioural activation (motivation of gaining reward) and inhibition (motivation of avoiding failure) systems were found to play a crucial role in achieving higher dominance and the formation of ideas about one’s own social status. In addition, the neurophysiological and neurochemical mechanisms involved in the regulation of social hierarchical relationships are discussed. The review describes the features of brain activation during social interaction, including dominance and subordination, as well as context-dependent perception of one’s own social status and that of the opponent. The behavioural dominance system is proposed to be considered in the framework of the theory of functional systems, its architectonics, and central principles (interaction between its components, afferent synthesis, decision making, action program, and action result acceptor). Based on the systemic principles, social factors can be viewed as major environmental and triggering stimuli which affect the afferent synthesis, modulate the action program, and change the appraisal of results achieved by individuals during social interactions.
Modern educational researchers and practicing specialists alike focus their attention on studying the social-emotional sphere of a student’s personality. The importance of a harmonious development in this area for successful socialization and high academic achievement has been repeatedly demonstrated by experimental studies. In scientific literature, the relationship between the emotions schoolchildren experience during the educational process and their educational motivation and academic success has become a prominent point of discussion. One of the tasks for the modern teachers is to recognize the emotional states of their students accurately, in order to, firstly, react in time and correctly in various situations, and, secondly, teach children to recognize their own emotions and those of others.
At the same time, the findings of modern face cognition science suggest that representatives of all age groups find it easier to perceive, remember, and recognize the faces of their peers and to interpret socially significant information (i. e. emotional states) from their peers’ facial expressions — a phenomenon identified as own-age bias. These findings substantiate the need to study the process of mutual social perception between the main participants in the educational process — students and teachers, and to determine how wide the variance is and what it is associated with.
In this article, we present the results of a series of our experiments aimed at studying the effects of own-age bias in children and adults. In the future, we plan to continue experimental work involving teachers as the main participants. The results of the study can be applied when developing recommendations on the features of the non-verbal side of communication with children both for teachers, and for educational authorities that train this group of professionals.
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.
Eye-tracking is a non-invasive measure that has been repeatedly used for studying attention and related cognitive processes. While eye-tracking is not a direct measure of brain activity, it has been shown to reveal information about mental processes, that may not be easily accessible through other measures, such as problem solving strategies. Mental attentional capacity corresponds to the amount of information an individual can maintain and manipulate in mind (Pascual-Leone, J. ,1970); it is considered the central maturational component of working memory (Arsalidou, M., Pascual-Leone, J., & Johnson, J. ,2010). This construct has been found to be closely related to other aspects of cognitive competence and intelligence (Johnson et al., 2003). Research into relation between eye movements and mental attentional capacity across development at the moment is sparse and fragmented and no eye tracking studies have been conducted so far with parametric developmental measures, such as the colour matching tasks (Arsalidou, M., Pascual-Leone, J., & Johnson, J. ,2010), which would allow to dissociate changes in saccades and fixations related to working memory load (n = 6) from those related to interference control and trace the maturation of these two processes. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relation between eye-tracking indices (e.g., number of fixations) and mental attentional capacity. Data from adult participants showed significant differences between number of fixations per trial for different levels of mental attentional load. Additionally, analysis revealed significant negative correlation between number and duration of fixations and accuracy for both the balloons and the clowns versions of the task, with the correlation being stronger for the clowns version, which contains interference. Interestingly, for each difficulty level, children generate a similar number of fixations regardless of interfering features, whereas adults make fewer fixations when the task has less interfering features. This suggests that adults may have different strategies depending on the task. Increased number of fixations may indicate that children favor a visual-spatial strategy, whereas adults favor a verbal strategy.