Advert saliency distracts children's visual attention during goal-directed internet use

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The general research question of the present study was to assess the impact of visually salient online adverts on children's task-oriented internet use. In order to answer this question as reliably as possible, an experimental study was constructed in which 9-year-old and 12-year-old Swedish children were asked to solve a number of tasks while interacting with a mockup website. In each trial, web adverts in low-level and high-level visual saliency conditions were presented. By both measuring children's task accuracy, as well as the visual processing involved in solving these tasks, this study allows us to infer how two types of visual saliency affect children's attentional behavior, and whether such behavioral effects also impacts their task performance. Analyses show that low-level and high-level saliency in online adverts have different effects on performance measures and process measures respectively. Whereas task performance is stable with regard to several advert saliency conditions, a marked effect is seen on children's gaze behavior. On the other hand, task performance is shown to be more sensitive to individual differences such as age, gender and level of gaze control. The results provide evidence about cognitive and behavioral distraction effects in children's task-oriented internet use caused by visual saliency in online adverts. The experiment suggests that children to some extent are able to compensate for behavioral effects caused by distracting visual stimuli when solving prospective memory tasks, and thus discusses a possible decoupling between task performance and task processing. Suggestions are given for further research into the interdiciplinary area between media research and cognitive science.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology


  • online advertising, children, internet use, distraction, visual saliency, visual attention
Original languageEnglish
Article number51
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch