Infants' Attention to An Adult's Demonstration of Object Functions: Evidence for a Comparator Process

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The present study was motivated by a concern with the cognitive processes that infants bring to bear on stimulation offered by adults. As previous studies have highlighted the importance of parental stimulation with objects, this study consisted of an experimental investigation of this context of stimulation. It was hypothesized that adults' actions that demonstrate the functions of toys activate a comparator process in 9-month-old infants. It was predicted that prior exposure to the toy in a stationary state would increase attention to a demonstrative action, as the comparator process requires time over and above the local processing of an event. This prediction was borne out: 9-month-olds infants' attention to the demonstration of the functions of a toy was augmented by immediate prior exposure to the toy in a stationary state. By contrast, attention to other actions which did not demonstrate specific functions was either significantly reduced by prior exposure to the toy, or unaffected. Moreover, 16-month-olds who are better able to perform a broad range of actions with objects, did not show increased attention to a demonstration of functions when prior exposure to the toy was provided.

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