The effects of novelty on the young child's exploration of objects



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The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of novelty on the young child's exploration of common-place, three-dimensional objects. Exploration of objects is considered to be important for the total development of the young child. At present it is not clear what motivates a young child to select and explore a particular object when faced with a number of choices. There is evidence that novel stimuli is explored more than that which is familiar, both by humans and infrahumans. Nonetheless, few studies have investigated this phenomenon in young children's exploration of manipulatable objects. Results from studies of both human and infrahuman subjects have revealed the occurrence of a decline in the exploration of a novel stimulus with repeated exposure. Two hypotheses were formulated. Hypothesis I stated that the total number of 10-second intervals in which subjects explore a novel object will be significantly higher than that of the highest scored familiar object. Hypothesis II stated that the total number of 10-second intervals in which subjects explore a novel object during a 10-minute session will decrease over the period of four sessions. In order to select comparable objects and test the reliability of the instrument and observer training effectiveness, a pilot study was conducted. The same setting was used for both the pilot and research studies. Subjects for the study were Black children from low-income families between the ages of 54 and 60 months who were enrolled in a day-care program. Fifteen boys and 15 girls completed eight individual observation sessions of 10 minutes each occurring twice daily for four days in succession. Before participation in the study, each subject was randomly assigned to one of three unfamiliar objects. During a familiarization period of four 10-minute sessions, the two unassigned objects were presented to a subject so they would become familiar. The third object, which was the novel object was then presented simultaneously with the familiar objects for a period of four 10-minute sessions. A check list was used for recording the exploration of each object at the end of each 10-second interval. The timing device consisted of a cassette recording of a sound occurring every 10 seconds for 10 minutes. The recording was played on a cassette tape recorder that was attached to a listening post containing a headset. Data from the last four sessions were analyzed to test the two hypotheses. The two independent variables manipulated in this investigation were novel and familiar objects. The dependent variables were four mean difference scores, one for each of the four sessions when the novel object was present. Multivariate analysis of variance with repeated measures was used to test the hypothesis that a novel object would be explored significantly more than the highest scored of two familiar objects. This test was statistically significant (F = 32.47, df = 3, 27, p < 0.01). The hypothesis that a decline in exploration of a novel object would occur over four 10-minute sessions was tested by analysis of variance with repeated measures. Although the data tended to suggest a decrease in exploration of the novel object, the statistical analysis failed to confirm the trend. The results substantiate that novel objects elicit more exploration from young children than familiar objects. Recognition of this information should guide teachers to frequently provide novel or unfamiliar objects for their use in the classroom so that their learning environment may be expanded and their total development enhanced. Further investigation is needed to explore the effects of repeated exposure to novel objects on the exploration of young children.