Uses and misuses of habituation and related preference paradigms



Houston-Price and Nakai raise an important problem researchers face when attempting to interpret infant visual preference data. This problem stems from paradigms in which infants are only partially familiarized to a stimulus, and it is unclear whether they should show a novelty or familiarity preference to that stimulus in a subsequent test. As Hunter and Ames' (1988) noted in their important chapter, infants will sometimes show a familiarity preference rather than a novelty preference, particularly when the infants are relatively young and the stimuli are relatively complex. In this commentary, I shall make three points regarding this issue: first, that the familiarity preference problem is real; second, that in most cases there is a simple solution to the problem; and third that certain popular infant paradigms can exacerbate the problem. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.