PerspectivePsychology

Infants explore the unexpected

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Science  03 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6230, pp. 42-43
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab0582

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Summary

Science can delight us with new and surprising findings. Sometimes, however, a study delights us by confirming something we already believed but could not yet prove. This is the kind of pleasure occasioned by Stahl and Feigenson's report on page 91 of this issue (1). In a series of elegant experiments, the authors show that, controlling for overall attention, 11-month-old infants are more likely to learn a new sound associated with an object if the object previously violated the infants' expectations (e.g., by appearing to pass through walls or roll over gaps without falling) than if the object behaved as expected. Moreover, infants not only selectively explore objects that violate their expectations but also explore in ways specific to the violation. Thus, they bang objects that violate expectations of solidity and drop objects that violate expectations of support (see the figure).