Development of gaze aversion: Qualitative changes over the early school years

Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon, Fiona Phelps, Julia Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Looking away from an interlocutor's face during demanding cognitive activity can help adults and children answer challenging mental-arithmetic and verbal-reasoning questions (Glenberg, Schroeder, & Robertson, 1998; Phelps, Doherty-Sneddon, & Warnock, 2006). Whilst such `gaze aversion' (GA) is used far less by 5-year-old schoolchildren, its use increases dramatically during the first years of primary education, reaching adult levels by 8 years of age (Doherty-Sneddon, Bruce, Bonner, Longbotham, & Doyle, 2002). The current study investigates whether developmental changes also occur in a qualitative aspect of GA - the direction of movement involved in GA shifts. Video data from eighteen 5-year-olds and nineteen 8-year-olds answering verbal and arithmetic questions were analysed for direction of GA. We found very different profiles of direction of GA across the two ages: whilst the 5-year-olds used predominantly rapid multidirectional `flicking' movements and some sustained left lateral movements, the 8-year-olds used predominantly sustained rightward movements. It is concluded that there are concomitant qualitative changes in the nature of GA shifts as well as quantitative increases in the use of GA across these age groups. A model of human attention in face-to-face interaction is discussed, as are implications for the assessment of children's learning and development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-526
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007


Dive into the research topics of 'Development of gaze aversion: Qualitative changes over the early school years'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this