Developmental Science

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Volume 10 Issue 5 (September 2007), Pages 513-711

Do you believe in magic? Infants’ social looking during violations of expectations (pages 654-663)


Young infants tend to look longer at physical events that have unexpected outcomes than those that have expected outcomes, suggesting that they have knowledge of physical principles such as numerosity and occlusion (Baillargeon & Graber, 1987; Wynn, 1992). Although infants are typically tested in the presence of a caregiver, the social component of violations of expectations has received little attention. The present study investigated social looking during presumably expected and unexpected cognitive/perceptual events. Two experiments replicated the results of well‐known physical knowledge experiments on addition/subtraction and occlusion in 6‐ (Experiments 1 and 2) and 9‐month‐old infants (Experiment 1), in that infants at both ages looked longer at unexpected than at expected events. Furthermore, infants at both ages initiated more looks at their caregivers’ faces during unexpected than expected events. These findings are interpreted as suggesting that infants as young as 6 months of age actively seek to embed their experiences of unexpected physical/cognitive events in a social context.

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