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Infant Attention and Discrimination: Methodological and Substantive Issues

Frances Degen Horowitz
Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
Vol. 39, No. 5/6, Visual Attention, Auditory Stimulation, and Language Discrimination in Young Infants (Dec., 1974), pp. 1-15
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1165968
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1165968
Page Count: 15
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Infant Attention and Discrimination: Methodological and Substantive Issues
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Abstract

To investigate auditory discrimination in very young infants, nine experimental studies used procedures of (1) infant control of stimulus duration, and (2) habituation of visual attending behavior. Results: (1) Infants at 5 and 6 weeks of age showed response decrement of looking at a repeated checkerboard stimulus. (2) When music was added without changing the visual stimulus looking behavior was recovered. (3) These effects were replicated at 12 and 14 weeks with infants classified as Rapid Habituators; the effect was most pronounced when the music was uninterrupted. (4) In a short-term longitudinal study, begun when infants were 8 weeks of age, visual attention to unchanging visual stimuli declined over weeks but could be recovered by adding the sound of the mother's voice presented via tape recording. The subtraction of the voice did not result in a recovery of visual attending behavior. (5) Use of an individually fashioned criterion for determining response decrement demonstrated that addition of the taperecorded voices of infants' mothers and of a stranger were equally successful in recovering visual attention to unchanging checkerboard stimuli in 8-week-old infants; at 9 weeks these same infants appeared able to discriminate the two different voices. Within a session, subtraction of the voice stimulus did produce recovery of visual fixation. (6) Infants at 8 and 9 weeks of age could discriminate tone-quality differences in the same voice and could discriminate verbal-content differences. (7) When slides of the infants' mothers' faces and that of a stranger were unaccompanied by their voices, discrimination was not demonstrated among 10- and 11-week infants; when the voices were present there was discrimination. The results of these experiments are discussed in terms of their implications for understanding habituation, cross-modal stimulation, receptive language development, and individual differences. Appendices concerned with data on looking durations to varying checkerboard stimuli and with the operation of an infant-research laboratory are included.

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