Something old, something new: a developmental transition from familiarity to novelty preferences with hidden objects


Jeanne L. Shinskey, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK; e-mail:


Novelty seeking is viewed as adaptive, and novelty preferences in infancy predict cognitive performance into adulthood. Yet 7-month-olds prefer familiar stimuli to novel ones when searching for hidden objects, in contrast to their strong novelty preferences with visible objects (Shinskey & Munakata, 2005). According to a graded representations perspective on object knowledge, infants gradually develop stronger object representations through experience, such that representations of familiar objects can be better maintained, supporting greater search than with novel objects. Object representations should strengthen with further development to allow older infants to shift from familiarity to novelty preferences with hidden objects. The current study tested this prediction by presenting 24 11-month-olds with novel and familiar objects that were sometimes visible and sometimes hidden. Unlike 7-month-olds, 11-month-olds showed novelty preferences with both visible and hidden objects. This developmental shift from familiarity to novelty preference with hidden objects parallels one that infants show months earlier with perceptible stimuli, but the two transitions may reflect different underlying mechanisms. The current findings suggest both change and continuity in the adaptive development of object representations and associated cognitive processes.