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  • Chen-Twomey-Westermann-JECP2022

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Curiosity Enhances Incidental Object Encoding in 8-month-old Infants

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
Article number105508
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/11/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume223
Number of pages13
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date15/07/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Recent research with adults indicates that curiosity induced by uncertainty enhances learning and memory outcomes and that the resolution of curiosity has a special role in curiosity-driven learning. However, the role of curiosity-based learning in early development is unclear. Here we presented 8-month-old infants with a novel looking time procedure to explore (a) whether uncertainty-induced curiosity enhances learning of incidental information and (b) whether uncertainty-induced curiosity leads infants to seek uncertainty resolution over novelty. In Experiment 1, infants saw blurred images to induce curiosity (Curiosity sequence) or a clear image (Non-curiosity sequence) followed by presentation of incidental objects. Despite looking equally to the incidental objects in both sequences, in a subsequent object recognition phase infants looked longer to incidental objects presented in the Non-curiosity condition compared with the Curiosity condition, indicating that curiosity induced by blurred pictures enhanced the processing of the incidental object, leading to a novelty preference for the incidental object shown in the Non-Curiosity condition. In Experiment 2, a blurred picture of a novel toy was first presented, followed by its corresponding clear picture paired with a clear picture of a new novel toy side by side. Infants showed no preference for either image, providing no evidence for a drive to resolve uncertainty. Overall, the current experiments suggest that curiosity has a broad attention-enhancing effect in infancy. Taking into account existing studies with older children and adults, we propose a developmental change in the function of curiosity, from this attentional enhancement to more goal-directed information seeking in older children and adults.