Rate learing in infancy
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] There is a preponderance of nonhuman animal studies that suggest an evolutionary conserved ability to represent time, number, and rate. Infant cognition researchers have followed suit by demonstrating the very same behavioral signatures associated with nonhuman animals' representation of time and number in the first year of human life. No study, however, has examined whether the ability to compute rate from representations of time and number are also available in infancy. Evidence for such an ability was sought here by testing 11- and 12-month-olds in a looking-time experiment using the habituation and violation-of-expectation methods. Infants were habituated to a compound audio-visual stimulus in which 4-dots appeared in sequence while accompanied by a continuous auditory tone of a specific duration. During test, infants watched as a grey occluder covered the central portion of the display and heard a tone that was twice the duration ("x 2 tone" condition), four times the duration ("x 4 tone" condition), or three times the duration ("x3 tone" condition) of the habituation tone. The occluder was subsequently lowered to reveal either 8-dots or 16-dots. Infants in the first two conditions looked longer at the incongruent outcome relative to the congruent outcome, and infants in the last condition looked similarly at both (incongruent) outcomes, suggesting that they learned the target rate during the habituation phase and expected outcomes consistent with the target rate during test. Thus, infants, like many other nonverbal animals, appear to be capable of extracting rate from the environment and can use this information to make predictions about future events.
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