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Psychol Sci. 2016 May;27(5):726-36. doi: 10.1177/0956797616636110. Epub 2016 Apr 6.

Touch or Watch to Learn? Toddlers' Object Retrieval Using Contingent and Noncontingent Video.

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Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


The experiment reported here was designed to examine the effect of contingent interaction with touch-screen devices on toddlers' use of symbolic media (video) during an object-retrieval task. Toddlers (24-36 months old; N = 75) were randomly assigned to watch an animated character hiding on screen either in a no-contingency video (requiring no action), a general-contingency video (accepting touch input anywhere on screen), or a specific-contingency video (requiring touch input on a particular area of interest). After the hiding event, toddlers searched for the character on a corresponding felt board. Across all trials, younger toddlers were more likely to search correctly after a specific-contingency video than after a no-contingency video, which suggests that contingent interaction designed to emphasize specific information on screen may promote learning. However, this effect was reversed for older toddlers. We interpret our findings with respect to the selective encoding of target features during hiding events and the relative strength of memory traces during search.


contingency; interactive media; learning; object retrieval; toddlers; transfer deficit; video deficit

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