Joint engagement in infants and its relationship to their visual impairment measurements

Journal Article


Coordination of attention between a social partner and an external focus of shared interest, called joint engagement, is associated with positive developmental outcomes such as better language, socio-emotional, and theory of mind skills in sighted infants. Current measures of joint engagement rely on an infant’s visual behaviors, making it difficult to study joint engagement in infants with low or no vision. In a naturalistic observational study, 20 infants with various levels of visual impairments – mean ages: 1.08 years (N = 9) and 1.62 years (N = 18), were videotaped during 30-min free play sessions with their caregivers. Seven infants were tested at both ages. Videos were coded to determine the percentage of time the dyads participated in joint engagement. Results showed that all visually impaired infants participated in joint engagement, with a significant increase between earlier and later ages. Infants’ visual impairment levels were described in terms of visual acuity and contrast sensitivity as measured using both visual evoked potential and preferential looking techniques. Of the visual measurements, infants’ reduction in contrast sensitivity measured with preferential looking, alone, predicted the infants’ percentage of time in joint engagement across ages. Contrary to prior research that exclusively focused on visual acuity, this finding supports the need to include contrast sensitivity measurements in studies with visually impaired infants.


Infant Behavior and Development



Number of Pages

311 - 323

Year of Publication