Factors affecting infants' choices: An examination of infant choice stability and parent expectancy effects

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Carolynn Kohn

First Committee Member

Matthew Normand

Second Committee Member

Henry Schlinger


Several researchers posit the tendency of adults and children to behave positively towards individuals similar to themselves (in-group bias) and to behave hostilely towards those dissimilar to themselves (out-group bias) is not learned, but is instead innate. Using infant-parent dyads, Mahajan and Wynn (2012) examined this question by asking infants ( n = 32), seated in their parents' lap, to choose between two foods, watch a puppet show during which two puppets verbally stated a liking or disliking of these foods, and then choose one of the puppets. They found more infants chose the puppet that “liked” the same food the infants chose. Based on these results, Mahajan and Wynn suggest this tendency is innate. However, methodological limitations including the unintentional effects of parent bias and use of a single choice-trial make this conclusion premature. The purpose of the current study was to replicate and extend the methodology of Mahajan and Wynn by addressing these limitations. Twenty-four infant-parent dyads were separated into two groups. After choosing a food and watching the puppet show, infants in Group 1 (multiple-baseline across participants design) chose a puppet 3-5 times before their parents were exposed to the parent bias measure and then chose an additional five times; parents in Group 2 (between-subjects comparison group) were exposed to the parent bias measure first, then infants chose a puppet five times. In Group 1, 7 of 12 infants (58%) selected the similar puppet on the first choice trial. In Group 2, 2 of 12 infants (17%) selected the similar puppet on the first choice trial. Repeated choice trials showed no influence of parent bias but did show patterns of side stability with 18 of 24 infants making a majority of their puppet selections on the same side.





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