Infants, children prefer sounds over pictures and only slowly become visually oriented, studies find

Sloutsky recently published two related papers on this research. One article, co-authored with Ohio State graduate student Amanda Napolitano, appears in the December 2004 issue of Child Development. A second paper, in the September 2004 issue of Child Development, was co-authored with post- doctoral researcher Christopher Robinson.

In the two published papers, the researchers report on 11 different experiments involving 8-, 12-, and 16-month-olds and 4-year-old children and adults.

In the experiment involving 8-month-olds, the infants were videotaped while sitting on a parent's lap in front of a large projection screen. They were then repeatedly presented a certain combination of a picture and sound to familiarize them with that combination. Previous work had shown that when infants become familiar with a picture, they look at it significantly less.

During the testing phase, the infants were sometimes presented with a different picture or a different sound from the sound-picture combination they were familiar with. By observing children and later reviewing the videotape, the researchers were able to see whether the infants turned their heads toward a new sound or a new picture.

The results showed that the infants did not look significantly longer at new visuals when they were paired with the familiar sounds indicating that the new pictures did not capture their attention. However, they did look significantly longer at pictures whether new or old when they were paired with new sounds.

"Of all the groups we studied, infants were the most likely to attend to sounds over visuals," Sloutsky said.

In previous research, Sloutsky had found that 4-year-olds also preferred sounds to visuals. In this new study, he extended that work to see whether this auditory dominance remains in effect in all conditions.

The results showed that the children paid more attention to sounds when they were presented with unfamiliar pi

Contact: Vladimir Sloutsky
Ohio State University

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