Looking time

All of our experiments are reviewed and authorized by the Hungarian Egyesített Pszichológiai Kutatásetikai Bizottság (Unified Psychological Ethics Committee). Participation in all our studies in voluntary, and consent can be revoked at any stage of the experiment without justification.

Age range: 6-15 months

Question(s): Do babies notice important changes in the videos presented to them?

Assumption: The more unexpected, the more “surprising” a series of events is or the more it violates the expectation of babies, the longer they will look at the last, still frame of a movie. For instance, after babies see a dog playing with a ball in a video, they will be surprised to see a cat instead of the ball.

Procedure: We record the babies as they watch the experimental stimuli (seated in their parent’s lap), and we later code the videos, establishing the babies’ looking times in milliseconds. We compare the looking times of the babies between different videos. If we find that there is significant difference in the time babies spent looking at different videos, we assume that babies have noticed the differences in these events, or that they are surprised to see a certain results that is unexpected for them.

Example: One of our studies have explored whether 9 months old babies notice a change in the number or identity of entities or objects. In a study, infants saw 3 ducks on a table. Changes were made in the scene in two ways: one group of the infants saw 2 ducks instead of 3, while another group saw 3 buckets instead of ducks. We have observed that in case the experimenter doesn’t talk to the babies during the events, only executes the switch, the babies notice the change in number more often than the change in identity. This means that they look longer at an outcome when 3 objects became 2, but they don’t look longer if they see different objects compared to the originals. However, this pattern of looking is reversed in a communicative situation: if the experimenter greets the infants and smiles at them, the babies notice the identity changed more often. We assume that the explanation for this finding is that communication draws the attention of babies to the unique details of objects.

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