"Goldilocks" effect seen in infant response to visual stimuli

June 1, 2012

Infants avoid spending time examining stimuli that are either too simple or too complex, focusing instead on events with an intermediate level of complexity, according to a new study.

Infants avoid spending time examining stimuli that are either too simple or too complex, focusing instead on events with an intermediate level of complexity, according to a new study.

Researchers conducted 2 experiments with infants aged 7 and 8 months to measure their visual attention to sequences of events of varying complexity.

In each experiment, infants were presented with displays featuring uniquely colored and patterned boxes that were animated to reveal familiar objects. The animated sequences of events continued until the infant looked away continuously for 1 second or until the sequence timed out at 60 seconds.

The findings suggest that infants implicitly seek to maintain intermediate rates of information absorption and avoid wasting cognitive resources on events that are either too simple or too complex.

Kidd C, Piantadosi ST, Aslin RN. The Goldilocks effect: human infants allocate attention to visual sequences that are neither too simple nor too complex. PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e36399.