The Eyes Have It

Did you know the size of your pupils is a good indicator of your cognitive workload (i.e. how hard your brain is working)? This titbit of knowledge comes from the newish but very interesting Developing Intelligence blog. A quick search for pupil dilation and dyslexia or ADHD revealed nothing of interest. This is a shame because I suspect dyslexics would be shown to be working harder than normal children on most academic test.
On the research blog for the British Psychological Society there is a curious study that demonstrated that five year olds scored 18% better on a test when instructed to look away whilst thinking about the answer.
The children were tested individually, with all questions posed by the same researcher who sat 1.5 feet in front of them. During a practice session and before the test proper, half the children were instructed to look away from the researcher while they thought of answers to the questions; the remaining children received no such instruction and acted as controls.
The researchers found that the children encouraged to look away while they were thinking, did indeed look away more than the controls (52.5 per cent of the time on average vs. 34.7 per cent). The difference was particularly noticeable for harder questions, whereas it was absent for the easy maths questions. Crucially, the children trained to look away also answered more questions correctly than the control children (72.5 per cent vs. 55.9 per cent)
If you have any theories, neurological or psychological, why looking away helps then please post a comment.


  1. Anita Ghazarian

    It is generally known that if a child suffers from accommodative or binocular vision disorders, that they also tend to exhibit reduced concentration and comprehension, since the effort required to keep the text clear and single detracts from the effort required to digest the material.

  2. Visual problems do make it harder for children to read and thus they have less ‘brain power’ to spare on the meaning of the words. However I think in this instance the question were spoken not written.

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