Explaining individual differences in infant visual sensory seeking

Elena Serena Piccardi, Mark H. Johnson, Teodora Gliga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


Individual differences in infants’ engagement with their environment manifest early in development and are noticed by parents. Three views have been advanced to explain differences in seeking novel stimulation. The optimal stimulation hypothesis suggests that individuals seek further stimulation when they are under-responsive to current sensory input. The processing speed hypothesis proposes that those capable of processing information faster are driven to seek stimulation more frequently. The information prioritization hypothesis suggests the differences in stimulation seeking index variation in the prioritization of incoming relative to ongoing information processing. Ten-month-old infants saw 10 repetitions of a video clip and changes in frontal theta oscillatory amplitude were measured as an index of information processing speed. Stimulus-locked P1 peak amplitude in response to checkerboards briefly overlaid on the video at random points during its presentation indexed processing of incoming stimulation. Parental report of higher visual seeking did not relate to reduced P1 peak amplitude or to a stronger decrease in frontal theta amplitude with repetition, thus not supporting either the optimal stimulation or the processing speed hypotheses. Higher visual seeking occurred in those infants whose P1 peak amplitude was greater than expected based on their theta amplitude. These findings indicate that visual sensory seeking in infancy is explained by a bias toward novel stimulation, thus supporting the information prioritization hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-698
Number of pages22
Issue number5
Early online date3 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020

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