Visual search accelerates during adolescence
We studied changes in visual-search performance and behavior during adolescence. Search performance was analyzed in terms of reaction time and response accuracy. Search behavior was analyzed in terms of the objects fixated and the duration of these fixations. A large group of adolescents (N = 140; age: 12-19 years; 47% female, 53% male) participated in a visual-search experiment in which their eye movements were recorded with an eye tracker. The experiment consisted of 144 trials (50% with a target present), and participants had to decide whether a target was present. Each trial showed a search display with 36 Gabor patches placed on a hexagonal grid. The target was a vertically oriented element with a high spatial frequency. Nontargets differed from the target in spatial frequency, orientation, or both. Search performance and behavior changed during adolescence; with increasing age, fixation duration and reaction time decreased. Response accuracy, number of fixations, and selection of elements to fixate upon did not change with age. Thus, the speed of foveal discrimination increases with age, while the efficiency of peripheral selection does not change. We conclude that the way visual information is gathered does not change during adolescence, but the processing of visual information becomes faster.