We investigated exploratory eye movements to thematic pictures in schizophrenic, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and normal children. For each picture, children were asked three questions varying in amount of structure. We tested if schizophrenic children would stare or scan extensively and if their scan patterns were differentially affected by the question. Time spent viewing relevant and irrelevant regions, fixation duration (an estimate of processing rate), and distance between fixations (an estimate of breadth of attention) were measured. ADHD children showed a trend toward shorter fixations than normals on the question requiting the most detailed analysis. Schizophrenic children looked at fewer relevant, but not more irrelevant, regions than normals. They showed a tendency to stare more when asked to decide what was happening but not when asked to attend to specific regions. Thus, lower levels of visual attention (e.g., basic control of eye movements) were intact in schizophrenic children, in contrast, they had difficulty with top-down control of selective attention in the service of self-guided behavior.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Patrick Carlyle for writing the computer programs for presenting and analyzing the data and for devising the formula for calculating scan scores. We are grateful to Donald Guthrie, Ph.D., for his help with the statistical analysis of the data. This research was supported in part by grants to Robert F. Asarnow, Ph.D. from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH 45112), the Delia Martin Foundation, and the Stanley Foundation.
- Deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Eye movements
- Scene perception
- Visual- spatial attention