Surrounding culture affects infants’ attention by age 2

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New York, Feb 17 (IANS) The cultures in which we live starts shaping our perceptions about the objects and events in the world from age two, new research suggests.

“The results reported here suggest that by the time they reach their second birthdays, infants may be on their way to becoming ‘native lookers,” said the study’s lead author Sandra Waxman from Northwestern University in Illinois, US.

For the study, the researchers examined how 24-month-old infants from the US and China deploy their attention to objects and actions in active scenes.

They found that the two-years-old infants — who are on the threshold of learning words for objects and actions — have a great deal in common when observing active scenes.

However, infants’ looking patterns in the two cultures diverged significantly for a brief period.

In the experiment, all infants watched a series of repeated scenes (for example, a girl petting a dog). Then, infants watched new scenes in which either object was switched (the girl petting a pillow) or the action was switched ( the girl kissing a dog). This was when their attention diverged.

Infants from China preferred looking at the scenes featuring a new action. In contrast, infants from the US showed the opposite pattern, preferring scenes featuring a new object.

The research raises the possibility that by 24 months, infants’ attention may already be shaped subtly by the attentional patterns characteristic of adults in their cultural communities, study said.

“Clearly, 24-month-old infants from the U.S. and China have a great deal in common when attending to dynamic scenes, but they may have also begun to pick up the attentional strategies characteristic of adults in their respective communities,” Waxman said.

The findings appeared in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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