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Rachel Wu, Natasha Kirkham; Visual statistical learning with and without an attention cue in infancy. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):467. doi: 10.1167/10.7.467.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Social cues (i.e., eye gaze, infant-directed speech, head turn) mediate infants' learning of basic linguistic and perceptual events among distractions (e.g., Houston-Price et al., 2006). Here, we demonstrate that social cues (rather than no cues) produce rapid learning of statistically-defined visual events. Fifty-three 9-month-olds were eye-tracked while being familiarized to movies similar to Fiser and Aslin's (2002) complex shape patterns, each composed of 3 differently colored component shapes. Either a single pattern appeared in one of two panels, arranged left and right, in the lower part of the screen (No Distractor conditions), or a target pattern appeared in one panel and a distractor pattern in the other panel (Distractor condition). For each pattern, the movie depicted two component shapes remaining constant while the other component varied (i.e., changed its color and shape). In one of the No Distractor conditions as well as the Distractor condition, a female face appeared in the center of the screen and turned to look down at the target pattern. After these movies, infants were shown expected and unexpected patterns (relative to the target pattern), defined by whether a split in the pattern involved the variable component (expected) or constant components (unexpected). Infants in both Face conditions (with and without distractors; N=35) looked longer to the unexpected split during test trials (p<.05). Infants in the No Face condition (N=18) exhibited only a gradual preference for the expected split (p<.03), even though these infants looked twice as long to the target shape during familiarization compared infants in both Face conditions. Social cues thus bias visual statistical processing, underscoring the impact of social attention cues on learning basic events in a noisy environment. It is possible that these attention cues are even necessary for rapid perceptual learning in infancy.
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