Dr. Robertson's general research area is developmental psychobiology; he uses a range of techniques to address the relations between the mind and body during development. During the last ten years, Dr. Robertson has been focusing on mind-body relations during early infancy, particularly in the context of visual foraging.
During early infancy, when independent locomotion is not yet possible, visual foraging is an important way for infants to learn about the world. Using eye-tracking to record looking behavior and movement sensors to detect body movement, Dr. Robertson and his colleagues have demonstrated that decreases in body movement reliably occur during looks and increases in body movement reliably precede looks away. This suggests that spontaneous body movements may help infants to disengage their gaze and promote visual foraging.
Using a dynamical systems approach, Dr. Robertson and a colleague in the Center for Applied Mathematics have developed mathematical models of visual foraging. In this work they have found that a surprisingly simple model can mimic the behavior of young infants during extended periods of spontaneous looking and looking away.
Interestingly, these results leave open the question of the role of attention. As work with adults has shown, gaze does not necessarily reflect attention. It is possible, and in fact it frequently happens, that while we look at one object we are attending to another object or event. If spontaneous body movements help to unlock gaze, what role, if any, does attention play in this process? To explore this question, Dr. Robertson's lab is recording steady-state visual evoked potentials from infants to measure attention independently of gaze. Dr. Robertson and students have also been exploring ways to incorporate EEG measures in other ongoing research with infants and young children.
In collaboration with students, Dr. Robertson has recently collected follow-up data with children who participated in visual foraging experiments as infants. These preliminary data suggest that attention problems in childhood may be predicted by the coupling of attention and body movement during free looking in early infancy. He is currently following a larger cohort of children studied as infants to assess this provocative link.
Postdoc 1979 - Case Western Reserve U. School of Medicine
Behavior / Physiology of the Newborn
Ph.D. 1977 - Cornell University
Sc.B. 1970 - Brown University
Application of Dynamical Systems Theory to Behavior and Development (HD 645), graduate seminar.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children (HD 478), undergraduate seminar.
Behavioral Organization in the Newborn Infant (HD 645), graduate seminar.
Developmental Psychology (HD 620), graduate course.
Freshman Discussion Group (HD 120), undergraduate seminar.
Human Growth and Development (NS/HD/Bio and Soc 347), undergraduate course.
Infancy (HD 640), graduate course.
Infant Behavior and Development (HD 344), undergraduate course.