Infant Effects on Experimenter Behavior

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The present study explored experimenters’ looking behavior in a gaze-following task as a function of infant temperament. Two experienced female experimenters ran 62 15-month-olds through a six-trial gaze-following procedure in which infants were not distracted on the first three trials, but were distracted on the latter three trials by an Elmo video playing in the background. Although experimenters were trained to look at target objects for eight seconds per trial and were blind to infant temperamental status, both experimenters looked significantly longer during the non-distracted trials when infants were rated by their caregivers as high on effortful control or surgency. These results suggest that even experienced experimenters are susceptible to infant-driven influences. More importantly, these results highlight the importance of conceptualizing lab-based infant research involving human experimenters as, in Bronfenbrenner's (1977) terms, representing the totality of a functional social system that does not exclude the experimenters.