Individual differences in processing speed and curiosity explain infant habituation and dishabituation performance.
Poli F., Ghilardi T., Beijers R., de Weerth C., Hinne M., Mars RB., Hunnius S.
Habituation and dishabituation are the most prevalent measures of infant cognitive functioning, and they have reliably been shown to predict later cognitive outcomes. Yet, the exact mechanisms underlying infant habituation and dishabituation are still unclear. To investigate them, we tested 106 8-month-old infants on a classic habituation task and a novel visual learning task. We used a hierarchical Bayesian model to identify individual differences in sustained attention, learning performance, processing speed and curiosity from the visual learning task. These factors were then related to habituation and dishabituation. We found that habituation time was related to individual differences in processing speed, while dishabituation was related to curiosity, but only for infants who did not habituate. These results offer novel insights in the mechanisms underlying habituation and serve as proof of concept for hierarchical models as an effective tool to measure individual differences in infant cognitive functioning. RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS: We used a hierarchical Bayesian model to measure individual differences in infants' processing speed, learning performance, sustained attention, and curiosity. Faster processing speed was related to shorter habituation time. High curiosity was related to stronger dishabituation responses, but only for infants who did not habituate.