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Infant Behav Dev. 2012 Dec;35(4):697-704. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2012.07.022. Epub 2012 Sep 14.

Dynamics of infant habituation: infants' discrimination of musical excerpts.

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Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, United States.


Schöner and Thelen (2006) summarized the results of many habituation studies as a set of generalizations about the emergence of novelty preferences in infancy. One is that novelty preferences emerge after fewer trials for older than for younger infants. Yet in habituation studies using an infant-controlled procedure, the standard criterion of habituation is a 50% decrement in looking regardless of he ages of the participants. If younger infants require more looking to habituate than do older infants, it might follow that novelty preferences will emerge for younger infants when a more stringent criterion is imposed, e.g., a 70% decrement in looking. Our earlier investigation of infants' discrimination of musical excerpts provides a basis and an opportunity for assessing this idea. Flom et al. (2008) found that 9-month-olds, but not younger infants, unambiguously discriminate "happy" and "sad" musical excerpts. The purpose of the current study was to examine younger infants' discrimination of happy and sad musical excerpts using a more stringent, 70% habituation criterion. In Experiment 1, 5- and 7-month olds were habituated to three musical excerpts rated as happy or sad. Following habituation infants were presented with two musical excerpts from the other affect group. Infants at both ages showed significant discrimination. In Experiment 2, 5- and 7-month-olds were presented with two new excerpts from the same affective group as the habituation excerpts. The infants did not discriminate these novel, yet affectively similar excerpts. In Experiment 3, 5- and 7-month-olds discriminated individual happy and sad excerpts. These results replicate those for the older, 9-month-olds in the previous investigation. The results are important as they demonstrate that whether infants show discrimination using an infant-controlled procedure is affected by the researchers' chosen criterion of habituation.

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