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Infants need more variety – increased data acquisition with reduced participant attrition in infant ERP studies

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date18/03/2013
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Original languageEnglish


Infant ERP studies often feature high attrition rates with large numbers of trials excluded from statistical analyses. The number of experimental conditions is conventionally limited to reduce the test-sessions’ durations and to ensure that reasonable trial-numbers will be obtained for each condition. Here, we designed an ERP study involving eight conditions originating from three previously published studies and presented them to 18 1-year-olds. We expected to replicate original results at least partly. Additionally, we were interested in the effect this novel method of stimulus presentation would have on infant attention. Due to the requirement for sustained attention, interest may decrease. Alternatively, the stimulus-variability may extend attention, allowing the acquisition of more valid trials. Our main finding was that the variability of the stimulus presentation sustained the infants’ attention beyond normal parameters. This is apparent from the markedly increased number of artifact-free trials obtained and from the substantially decreased attrition rates. Results from a gap-/no gap-task were fully replicated whereas others, related to face-processing, were replicated in part. Additionally, effects that were not reported in the original studies were found. This is most probably due to interference in the information processing between these conditions. The results show that presenting infants with varied stimuli extends their attention, allowing the acquisition of at least four times more data than via current infant ERP methods. However, stimuli from separate sub-experiments must be cognitively and perceptually distinct, otherwise contamination between related factors will occur.

Bibliographic note

Copyright: © 2013 Stets, Burt and Reid. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.