Choice responding in infants and preschoolers : the effects of child control over stimulus presentation

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Phyllis Jean Cushing (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
P. Scott Lawrence

Abstract: Studies of operant conditioning with infants have suggested that control over environmental events is reinforcing. Interpretations of the pleasure derived from controlling stimuli have been largely based upon observation and anecdotal reports of increased attention and positive affect (e.g., smiling, cooing) under conditions of infant-controlled stimulation and observations of negative affect (e.g., fussing, crying) when control is taken away. The purpose of the present study was to empirically validate whether infants and young children do, in fact, prefer contingent over noncontingent stimulation. To accomplish this, children aged 12 to 51 months were provided with a series of opportunities to choose between contingent and noncontingent visual stimuli. The stimuli consisted of a series of slides of colorful cartoon and storybook characters projected onto plexiglass panels. Choice between the two schedules was used as a measure of preference. Rates of responding (i.e., panel pressing) to the tvo schedules following each choice were also analyzed.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1987
Infant psychology
Child psychology
Psychological tests for children

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