Tobii - Research spotlight - Gustaf

Research spotlight interviews

Eye tracking beyond borders

Exploring cross-cultural insights in social cognition and infant development

Resource Details

  • Prepared by

    Dr. Marisa Biondi

  • Read time

    5 min

  • February 15, 2024

Dr. Gustaf Gredebäck takes us on an eye tracking journey around the world, studying infant development in different cultural environments.

Tobii - Gustaf Intro Slide

Dr. Gustaf Gredebäck is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden. He directs the Uppsala Child and Baby Lab, where they study motor, social, and cognitive development from early in life

Watch the video interview.

About the interview

In this engaging interview, Dr. Gustaf Gredebäck shares his extensive experience utilizing eye tracking technology to explore infant development and social cognition. Over nearly 25 years, he has studied infants’ social capacities, beginning first with babies in his home country of Sweden, and then branching out to infants of different cultural backgrounds in Asian and African countries.

Dr. Gredebäck’s research aims to understand how infants learn from their experiences, shaping their interpretations of the world. Central to their research methodology are measures like predictive eye movements and pupil dilation, which provide valuable insights into infants' real-time cognitive processes and emotional responses. These metrics demonstrate this foundational social capacity of predicting goal-oriented actions.

“It's this integration between the experiences of the child and how they perceive the world and the hypotheses that they formulate about the world that we can capture with their predictive eye movements… We can see that infants from a very young age formulate very clear hypotheses about what's going to happen.”

In order to address the WEIRD bias and make their research more inclusive, Dr. Gredebäck and his team have embarked on collaborative projects in diverse cultural settings such as Bhutan, Zimbabwe, and Uganda. The use of eye tracking technology in these studies offers a unique perspective, enabling researchers to examine how infants from different cultural backgrounds perform in similar tasks. Dr. Gredebäck’s resulting data indicates that infants across the world share similar innate social capacities, no matter what country they are from.

“When it comes to infants, then we highly value the use of eye tracking as a non-verbal way to assess child development in a way that can be compared across the globe.”

Beyond eye tracking assessments with infants, Dr. Gredebäck’s team also studies family dynamics, through standardized tests for children and parental interviews. These cross-cultural studies aim to uncover the universalities and cultural specificities in child development. Their data has demonstrated that increased social support or religious belief, like in Bhutan, can act as protective factors for infant development.

“A general theme that we're capturing is that the mental health of mothers is an essential, essential component for child development. This is true for 16 year olds that have lived in Aleppo, or for babies in Bhutan, or for babies in Sweden as well.”

Looking ahead, Dr. Gredebäck sees promising opportunities in the continued advancement of eye tracking technology, particularly in terms of mobility and accessibility. He envisions a future where researchers can conduct studies seamlessly in various settings worldwide, breaking barriers of geographical constraints.

“We can replicate the very same study in the nurse's office in Bhutan or in a residential area in Harare [Zimbabwe]. You can put [an eye tracker] in a bag and just head out into the field.”

Dr. Gredebäck encourages researchers who have yet to use eye tracking technology in their own work to try it out, with this straightforward advice:

“There's so much to learn [from eye tracking] without it having to be so fancy. I think it's pretty much plug-and-play. So give it a go.”

Watch the video below to gain valuable insights from Dr. Gredebäck himself.

Related information

Below you can find a selection of publications reporting on the work mentioned in the interview, which employed eye tracking technology:

Gredebäck, G. (2022). High quality social environment buffers infants’ cognitive development from poor maternal mental health: Evidence from a study in Bhutan. Developmental Science, 25, 3, e13203*.*

Marciszko, C., Forssman, L., Kenward, B., Lindskog, M., Fransson, M., & Gredebäck, G. (2020). The social foundation of executive function. Developmental Science, 23, e12924.

Del Bianco, T., Falck-Ytter, T., Thorup, E., & Gredebäck, G. (2019). The developmental origins of gaze-following in human infants. Infancy, 24, 433-454.

Laeng, B., Sirois, S., & Gredebäck, G. (2012). Pupillometry: A window to the pre-conscious? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7, 18-27.

Gredebäck, G., Johnson, S. P., & von Hofsten, C. (2010).
Eye tracking in infancy research. Developmental Neuropsychology, 35, 1-19.

For more on Dr. Gredeback´s work, please visit his lab's website.

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In this series of interviews, esteemed researchers discuss how they have used eye tracking across a broad range of applications.

Resource Details

  • Prepared by

    Dr. Marisa Biondi

  • Read time

    5 min

  • February 15, 2024

Interviewed by

  • Tobii Pro employee Dr. Marisa Bondi

    Dr. Marisa Biondi

    Senior Research Scientist and Funding Support Manager, Tobii

    Dr. Biondi has a Ph.D. in Psychological & Brain Sciences from Texas A&M University and used fNIRS and eye tracking to study the functional organization of the developing human brain.

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