Devon LongoPSY 102Prof.

Bob Melara10/29/17″Using the Habituation Technique to Evaluate a Piagetian Hypothesis”        The purpose of this paper is to use the habituation technique in young infants to evaluate one hypothesis derived from Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. I will compare 5-months old’s in a task that involves possible and impossible outcomes. Piaget’s theory specifies the cognitive competencies of children this age.

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1a. From birth to about the age of 2, babies are exercising their 5 developing senses with an “Out of sight is out of mind” attitude. 1b. This attitude is lack of object permanence which means objects continue to exist even if they are not perceived. Piaget vouches that the phenomenon of object permanence, or lack thereof, in infants is because memories for infants at such a young age is weak. Our memory develops as quickly as our brain does, and around 8 months old, infants start growing stronger memories and can retain memory to understand that objects still exists even if it is out of sight.

1c. Around the same time that object permanence develops in infants, the fear of strangers and different surroundings, or stranger anxiety, emerges. The timing of object permanence and stranger anxiety is crucial because once object permanence arises, stranger anxiety follows at the 8-month-old marker. This may be because when the “Out of sight is out of mind” attitude deteriorates, infants gain familiarity with certain faces and are aware of their presence. When a new face comes into the picture, babies show fear to something new because they are unable to assimilate new faces into their mind to what they already know. 1d. However, the ideas of object permanence emerging at 8 months old is not so cut and dry as Piaget believed it to be. A theory that was outlined by McCrink and Wynn suggests that Piaget’s timeline is not so rigid.

According to McCrink and Wynn, babies were able to perform mathematical operations like addition and subtraction at the age of 5 months old which means that object permanence is a more gradual process than what Piaget prescribes. Habituation is a method that might be used to explore predictions of Piaget’s theory. 2a. The habituation technique is repeated stimulation on an infant to decrease responsiveness to said stimulation.

Dishabituation is the inverse of habituation, it recovers the stimulation that has been habituated through an extensive stimulus. Researchers may use habituation to see what stimuli babies remember. Things like social responses can be explained through habituation because even as babies we are drawn to human voices and we tend to look at pictures longer that contain human faces. 2b. Instead of using habituation, another useful technique to test cognitive abilities in infants is operant conditioning. Imagine your child is throwing a tantrum in the back seat of your car and you refuse to respond to his or hers whining and after a while the kid realizes that he or she is not going to be rewarded for that behavior and stops crying; this is operant conditioning.

It is a technique that involves either rewarding or punishing certain learned behaviors that the baby portrays. 2c.  The downside to this method is that it is through learned behaviors and not through natural stimuli that the baby may experience during its infancy.An experiment was performed to examine the age at which infants recognize certain outcomes as impossible. Five-month-old infants were tested in the procedure depicted in Figure 1. 3a.In this experiment, two objects are placed into a case where the infant can see them.

Step 2 involves putting a screen in front of the two objects so that the baby cannot see. At this point, if a baby lack object permanence, they will assume that the object does not exist anymore. In step 3, a person put their hand into the case, again where the baby will notice because it is coming from the side of the case and not from behind the screen. The next step is to remove one of the objects from the case and then the screen will drop to reveal either one of two possibilities.

3b. One possibility is that there is only one object, and the other possibility is that there are still two objects in the case. The experimental condition is the condition where there are still two objects in the case because this is the impossible outcome. It is the outcome that we want to measure how long will babies look at this change in the condition. The same infants would be tested in each condition, so we can find the difference between how long they stared at the case.

If we used different babies for each condition, there will be a bias towards one of the two outcomes. A separate control group wouldn’t be necessary because the conditions that is provided in the experiment already suggest a control variable. The possible outcome is the control variable because it is the only actual possible outcome that we expect to happen. So, a control group is not necessary because it is already covered through the possible outcome of the experiment. 3c.

Where the habituation technique comes into play is simple, we just keep showing them the same two outcomes which repeats stimuli that the baby will experience. The independent variable are the possible and impossible outcomes and the dependent variable is how long the infants look at each outcome.     Figure 2 contains results from the experiment. The results bear strongly on the experimental hypothesis.

4a. Using McCrink and Wynn’s theory, the hypothesis would anticipate that if infants are presented with an impossible outcome then they would stare at the case longer because infants are numerically inclined at young age and would be able to identify that the impossible outcome is impossible. Piaget would hypothesize that if the infants are presented with an impossible outcome then they wouldn’t look at the case for long because they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference because they lack object permanence before the age of 8 months old. 4b. The results shown in Figure 2 suggest that the experimental hypothesis supports its predictions by saying that the infants stare at the impossible case for longer because they are aware that this case shouldn’t happen. If we turn the tables and say that the infants stared at both outcomes for a short period of time, it would suggest a more Piagetian hypothesis because infants, according to Piaget, do not have object permanence until 8 months old.

4c. The actual outcome of the experiment says that babies tended to look at the impossible case longer than the possible case. The impossible case presented babies with dishabituation because in the possible case, they expected to not see the object in the case and habituated to the fact that the object was gone.

In the impossible case, it dishabituated the baby’s stimuli and made babies stare at the case for longer. In percentage, the possible case showed 50% less dishabituation. In terms of being statistically significant, we need to know that the sample averages are reliable, meaning unbiassed, and that the difference between the samples are large; which in this case is evident. 4d. The results of the experiment are consistent with McCrink and Wynnn’s hypothesis because if the babies did not have object permanence, the results would have shown that the staring time would be less for both cases.

The babies do not know the difference if they are indifferent of where objects are. McCrink and Wynn suggest that babies do have object permanence and when they are presented with the impossible outcome, dishabituation returns a stimulus in an infant and ultimately makes them look at the impossible case for longer.     The results of the experiment were valuable in addressing the hypothesis under study.

However, future investigations may need to adopt techniques that improve upon those used here. 5a.In Figure 3, the graph shows a delay of 10 seconds between steps 4 and 5 and records the length of time that babies stare at the two cases. Figure 3 does not represent the hypothesis made that depicts Figure 2 because the graph in Figure 3 shows that there is little difference in both outcomes. But this could mean that the extra 10 seconds before babies see the outcome habituates a stimulus of anticipation, and is immediately dishabituated when they see a change. So, both results can be true because we adjusted the time between the two steps and we can infer that habituation and dishabituation play a role when you add time between steps.

5b. However, this could also mean that Piaget was correct when he said that babies lack object permanence because according to his theory, there would be no difference in how long they stare at each case. For Figure 2, it disproves Piaget’s theory of babies not having object permanence because there is a statistical significance between the two cases that suggests that it is not by chance the babies are staring at the impossible case for longer. 5c. A critic has made the judgement about this study by saying, “The researcher assumes that infants in this study are responding to a change in number.

An alternative explanation is that infants are responding only whether the objects in memory mismatch the objects presented visually”. However, McCrink and Wynn perform more experiments with babies to really see if the baby is responding to a change in number rather than a change in the mass of objects. The follow up experiment they made was showing babies Daffy Duck on a stage. On the stage, Daffy Duck jumped three times and the babies were getting used to him jumping on the stage three times. However, when the researchers changed the amount of times that Daffy Duck jumped (from three times to two times) the babies showed surprise if it only jumped twice. The result of the babies’ reaction, by being surprised when Daffy Duck jumped two times instead of three, addresses the critics judgement because the factors in this experiment show that the baby is not stimulated by the mass of Daffy Duck, but by the change in the amount of times Daffy jumped.