Control, warning signals, and distress in infancy

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Two studies were conducted on the effects of the infant's control over activating an arousing, potentially fear-provoking toy. In the 1st study, the effects of control were compared to the effects of signaling the onset of the stimulus (predictability) in 66 Ss at 12 mo of age. Predictability and control did not have equivalent effects. Control reduced fear responses for boys and increased positive, approach responses for both sexes. Predictability did not increase positive, approach responses for either sex, and for girls it actually increased rather than decreased fear responses. In the 2nd study, the effects of control were examined in 120 6-, 9-, or 12-mo-old Ss using a cross-sectional design. Control did not reduce distress reactions (fuss/cry) until 12 mo, although especially at 6 and 12 mo control increased touching and being in close proximity to the test stimulus. Results are discussed in terms of the parameters of controllable stimulation affecting fear. It is argued that increased predictability cannot account for the fear-reducing effects of control at 12 mo and that cognitive developmental changes underlie the age change in the effects of controlling the activations of an aversive stimulus. (24 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-289
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 1980


  • age &
  • control vs predictability of aversive stimuli &
  • distress, 6 vs 9 vs 12 mo old infants
  • sex, fear &


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