Cultural influences affect infants early on, Northwestern study finds

Benjamin Din, Digital Projects Editor

Cultural influences take effect at an early age, causing young infants to respond differently to objects and events, according to a recent Northwestern study.

The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology and led by psychology Prof. Sandra Waxman, focused on examining 24-month-old infants in the U.S. and China.

The researchers showed the infants a series of repeated scenes before changing to scenes that involved either a different object or a different action. When the change occurred, the attention of the infants shifted.

Those from the U.S. preferred looking at scenes with a new object, while infants from China were more interested by scenes with a new action.

“(These infants) have a great deal in common when attending to dynamic scenes, but they may have also begun to pick up the attentional strategies characteristic of adults in their respective communities,” said Waxman, the study’s lead author, in a release. “The results reported here suggest that by the time they reach their second birthdays, infants may be on their way to becoming ‘native lookers.’”

The new research presents the possibility that infants’ attention are influenced subtly by the cultural patterns of adults in their communities. This agrees with past research suggesting U.S. adults focus on objects, while Japanese and Chinese adults focus more on the contexts and events surrounding objects, according to the release.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @benjamindin