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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 1990 Jan;16(1):98-109.

Discrimination learning during the first year: stimulus and positional cues.

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  • 1Department of Human Development, University of Kansas, Lawrence 66045.


In four studies, 3-, 6-, and 9-month-old human infants were tested in a discrimination learning task in which visual fixation to a particular stimulus or lateral position was reinforced with an auditory stimulus. In Experiment 1, all age groups exhibited acquisition, extinction, and reinstatement of fixation to the reinforced target or position. Experiment 2 revealed that 3-month-olds retained the positional discrimination but not the stimulus discrimination after a 5-min delay between acquisition and extinction; older infants retained both types of discriminations. In Experiments 3 and 4 we investigated a possible developmental shift in the dominance of positional versus stimulus cues by training infants on displays in which stimulus and position were confounded and then by dissociating the cues on test trials. Results from both experiments indicated positional cue dominance for young infants and stimulus cue dominance for older infants. The findings are discussed in terms of differences in the attentional demands elicited by proprioceptive versus exteroceptive cues.

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