Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

8-2021

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department

Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Experimental Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

Cashon, Cara

Committee Member

Danovitch, Judith

Committee Member

Mervis, Carolyn

Committee Member

Hindy, Nicholas

Committee Member

Dove, Guy

Author's Keywords

Infant attention; sticky mittens; cognitive development; attention to objects; parent interaction; parent-infant interaction

Abstract

The Sticky Mittens (SM) task, an object-manipulation task that facilitates typically developing pre-reaching infants’ learning through active experience with objects, is often utilized to understand how experience affects young infants’ learning about objects. SM experience has been shown to increase infants’ attention to objects, object engagement, and object exploration (Libertus & Needham, 2010; Needham, Barrett, & Peterman, 2002) and facilitates development of causal perception (Rakison & Krogh, 2012; Holt, 2016). Although the majority of SM studies have involved parents interacting naturally with their infants, few have focused on how those interactions affect infants’ learning and performance during or after SM. Holt (2016) found that infants in an active, no parent encouragement condition (AN) exhibited causal perception following a brief in-lab SM training session, while infants in an active, parent encouragement condition (AE) did not. I hypothesized that parent interaction behaviors in the AE condition disrupted infants’ attention to objects and may have negatively impacted infants’ learning. In the present study, videos from Holt’s (2016) AE and AN conditions were coded to compare the effect of parent interactions on infant attention to objects across conditions. While no significant effects were found on overall measures of infant attention or parent interactions, infants in the AE condition were more likely to look away from the toys following a parent interaction than were infants in the AN condition, supporting the hypothesis that parents in the encouragement condition distracted their infants during SM training. These findings are an important first step in understanding the role of parent interactions in the SM literature, infant attention, and infant attention to objects and learning.

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