Distinct Visual Processing of Real Objects and Pictures of Those Objects in 7- to 9-month-old Infants.
Frontiers in Psychology
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The present study examined 7- and 9-month-old infants' visual habituation to real objects and pictures of the same objects and their preferences between real and pictorial versions of the same objects following habituation. Different hypotheses would predict that infants may habituate faster to pictures than real objects (based on proposed theoretical links between behavioral habituation in infants and neuroimaging adaptation in adults) or to real objects vs. pictures (based on past infant electrophysiology data). Sixty-one 7-month-old infants and fifty-nine 9-month-old infants were habituated to either a real object or a picture of the same object and afterward preference tested with the habituation object paired with either the novel real object or its picture counterpart. Infants of both age groups showed basic information-processing advantages for real objects. Specifically, during the initial presentations, 9-month-old infants looked longer at stimuli in both formats than the 7-month olds but more importantly both age groups looked longer at real objects than pictures, though with repeated presentations, they habituated faster for real objects such that at the end of habituation, they looked equally at both types of stimuli. Surprisingly, even after habituation, infants preferred to look at the real objects, regardless of whether they had habituated to photos or real objects. Our findings suggest that from as early as 7-months of age, infants show strong preferences for real objects, perhaps because real objects are visually richer and/or enable the potential for genuine interactions.