Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Lauren Slone, Psychology

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This study investigates the link between virtual object learning and physical object play. This concept is relevant for today's digital culture where infants are routinely exposed to online educational programs (Barr, 2010). Research is unclear, however, about if and how what infants learn about objects on screen (visual preferences) applies to play choices — primary contexts for early learning.

The ability to recognize that an object's image on a screen is the same as the physical object is referred to as object transference (OT). For example, OT would be the ability to see an image of a cow on a screen and recognize that cow in real life. Prior studies demonstrate that infants at least 15 months old possess OT (Soska, 2010; Barr, 2010) with some studies suggesting that OT could occur as young as 6-9 months (Jowkar-Baniani, 2011; Rose, 1977).

In this ongoing study, infants participate in two tasks. First, infants watch for six minutes as 12 objects appear on screen in sets of three for 3.5 seconds at a time (Figure 1A-B) while researchers record how long infants look at each object through eye tracking. Second, infants are given 6 minutes to play with the 12 physical objects off-screen (Figure 1C) while researchers record how long they play with each object.

Preliminary data from 5 infants aged 8-21 months indicates a weak, positive correlation between visual and play preferences (mean r=.10; Figure 1D), however a larger sample size is needed before any conclusive results can be drawn. Future research will clarify conflicting studies on when OT develops and how infant age influences visual and play preferences. Enhancing knowledge about the correlation between infant visual preferences and play preferences can provide insight into the effectiveness of infant virtual education.


Title on poster differs from abstract booklet. Poster title: How Does Virtual Object Learning Impact Infant Play Choices?

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Psychology Commons