The Development of Infants’ Expectations for Event Timing

In: Timing & Time Perception
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  • 1 Department of Psychology, York University, Canada
  • 2 Centre for Vision Research, York University, Canada

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The capacity to process and incorporate temporal information into behavioural decisions is an integral component for functioning in our environment. Whereas previous research has extended adults’ temporal processing capacity down the developmental timeline to infants, little research has examined infants’ capacity to use that temporal information in guiding their future behaviours and whether this capacity can detect event-timing differences on the order of milliseconds. The present study examined 3- and 6-month-old infants’ ability to process temporal durations of 700 and 1200 milliseconds by means of the Visual Expectation Cueing Paradigm in which the duration of a central stimulus predicted either a target appearing on the left or on the right of a screen. If 3- and 6-month-old infants could discriminate the milliseconds difference between the centrally-presented temporal cues, then they would correctly make anticipatory eye movements to the proper target location at a rate above chance. Results indicated that 6- but not 3-month-olds successfully discriminated and incorporated events’ temporal information into their visual expectations. Brain maturation and the perceptual capacity to discriminate the relative timing values of temporal events may account for these findings. This developmental limitation in processing and discriminating events on the scale of milliseconds, consequently, may be a limiting factor for attentional and cognitive development that has not previously been explored.

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