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Chem Senses. 1998 Feb;23(1):11-7.

Infants' exploration of scented toys: effects of prior experiences.

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  • 1Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3308, USA.


To evaluate breastfed infants' responses to scented objects, we videotaped the facial and bodily reactions of sixty-three infants as they explored, in succession, three toys that were identical in appearance but different in their characteristic odor. Two of the toys were scented with odorants previously shown to be transmitted to human milk, one with ethanol and the other with vanilla, whereas the third toy was unscented. Each videotape was subjected to frame-by-frame analysis to measure a variety of behaviors that are considered either to be exploratory in nature in that they lead to perceptual information about the object or to reflect the infants' hedonic reaction. Analyses of these behaviors revealed that the infants looked more and vocalized less in the presence of the vanilla-scented toy and spent less time manipulating the ethanol-scented toy when compared with the unscented toy. Moreover, differential exposure to the odors of ethanol and vanilla, as indicated by differential consumption of alcohol by a parent or use of vanilla-scented product by the mother, was related to differential responses to these odors. These findings suggest that human infants are able to detect and retain information about the chemical features of their environment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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