Recalling “Make-A-Gong”: What’s so Special About Target Action #4

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Enabling-relation action sequences (ERASs) have long provided researchers an index of infants’ short- and long-term memories. Reproduction of these sequences demonstrates that infants are capable of attending to, encoding, retaining, and retrieving modeled actions in the sequence. Bauer and colleagues (e.g., 2000) have established considerable literature on infants’ memorial capacities using this paradigm. There is little research, however, on the extent to which infants produce primacy- versus recency-type effects in reproducing specific target actions in the sequence.Researchers have also not considered whethe exogenous and endogenous factors contribute to infants’ reproduction of target actions, or their focus on early versus late actions in the sequence. Our investigation explored whether an exogenous distracter, alone or combined with endogenous (temperament) factors, accounts for infants’ reproduction of individual steps in an ERAS. Twenty-seven 21-month olds (15 girls) observed an experimenter in our lab model a version of the “make-a-gong” action sequence, comprising five steps: 1) extend the rod, 2) lay the rod across two hooks, 3) hang the gong on the rod, 4) assemble the drumstick, and 5) strike the gong with the drumstick. Half observed the model while distracted by a peripheral “Mister Monkey” toy. Each was administered the Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire, assessing three temperament dimensions: Negative Affectivity, Surgency, and Effortful Control. When distracted, infants were significantly more likely to first attempt Target Action #4 (TA4) than any other target action [c2(1) = 4.14, p = .042], suggesting that when attentional resources are compromised, as when attending to an exogenous distracter, infants are likely to attempt recently observed steps in a modeled sequence. Success at TA4 did not differ between distracted and undistracted infants; however, we found that temperament was a significant predictor of success on TA4, but not on any other target action. Specifically, Negative Affectivity (r = -.48, p = .011) and Surgency (r = .40, p = .039) were associated with successful reproduction of TA4; however, distraction condition moderated neither effect. These results show that exogenous and endogenous factors can impact infants’ reproduction of ERASs, and perhaps infants’ memory-based performance more generally. Though this conclusion awaits replications in other settings, that the presence of an exogenous distraction produced a recency effect implies that infants may allocate their attention differently according to how distracting their surroundings are. Also, that surgency and negative affectivity correlated with infants’ success on one of the steps suggests that recall may be subject to the influence of infants’ temperamental reactivity. Future research should attempt to discern whether effects linked to TA4 are unique to that specific target action, or are instead a reflection of a recency effect.


Johnson City, TN

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