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High-amplitude sucking and newborns: The quest for underlying mechanisms

Determined whether newborns are sensitive to an operant-conditioning task involving an unprepared relation between a response and a stimulus. The High-Amplitude Sucking (HAS) procedure, based on such a relation by reinforcing nonnutritive sucking with auditory stimulation, was used. To verify that newborns learn the contingency between sucks and sounds in the HAS paradigm, 3 experiments were carried out. In Exp 1, the effect of contingent vs noncontingent presentation of speech sounds on newborns' sucking activity was investigated during the minutes following a silent baseline. In contrast to what has been reported with 2-mo-old infants in HAS, contingently stimulated newborns did not differ significantly from a nonstimulated control group. Exp 2 showed that an increase in sucking rates could be obtained after a stimulus change, when sounds were presented contingently, but not when sounds were presented noncontingently. Exp 3 demonstrated that newborns' sucking responses were reinforced by variation in the presented speech sounds. Implications for learning in neonates and possible differences with older infants are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved)



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