Contingent Stimulation: A Review of its Role in Early Development

  • Megan R. Gunnar
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 12)


The last decade has seen a change in emphasis regarding the role of stimulation in sustaining and fostering cognitive, motivational and emotional development. Whereas, during the ‘60’s such diverse pathologies as dwarfism, mental retardation, depression and affectionless psychopathology were attributed to lack of sufficient stimulation, particularly maternal stimulation, during infancy (Ainsworth, 1962; David and Appell, 1961; Levine, 1969; Province and Lipton, 1962; Rheingold, 1960), during the ‘70’s these same pathologies have been attributed to lack of sufficient response-contingent, or controllable stimulation (Levine, this volume; Lewis and Goldberg, 1969; Seligman, 1975; Watson, 1966). This change in emphasis from stimulation, per se, to contingent stimulation has been brought about by an increasing recognition of the importance of control for normal functioning and for coping with stress (see reviews by Averill, 1973; Lefcourt, 1976; Seligman, 1975; and other articles in this volume). It has been argued that experiences with control alter one’s motivation to respond, ability to learn contingent relationships, and behavioral and physiological responses to aversive stimulation (Bandura, 1977; Levine and Hennessy, this volume; Overmier, this volume; Seligman, 1975).


Exploratory Behavior Aversive Stimulus Infant Behavior Dominant Female Maternal Deprivation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ainsworth, M. D. S., 1962, The effects of maternal deprivation: a review of findings and controversy in the concept of research strategy, in: “Deprivation of Maternal Care: A Reassessment of its Effects,” World Health Organization, Geneva.Google Scholar
  2. Ainsworth, M. D. S., and Bell, S. M., 1973, Mother-infant interaction and the development of competence, in: “The Growth of Competence,” K. Connolly and J. Brunner, eds., Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Ainsworth, M.D.S., Bell, S., and Stayton, D.J., 1972, Individual differences in the development of some attachment behaviors. Merrill-Palmer Q., 18: 123–143.Google Scholar
  4. Averill, J., 1973, Personal control over aversive stimuli and its relationship to stress, Psychol. Bull., 80:286Google Scholar
  5. Bandura, A., 1977, Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change, Psychol. Rev., 84:191.Google Scholar
  6. Beckwith, L., Cohen, S., Kopp, C., Parmelee, A., and Marcy, T., 1976, Caregiver-infant interaction and early cognitive development in preterm infants, Child Devel., 47: 579.Google Scholar
  7. Bell, S., 1971, Early cognitive development and its relationship to infant-mother attachment: A Study of disadvantaged Negro infants, Report prepared for the U.S. Office of Education, Project No. 00542.Google Scholar
  8. Bowlby, J., 1969, “Attachment and Loss, Vol. 1: Attachment,” Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Bronson, G., 1971, Fear of the unfamiliar in human infants, “Origins of Human Social Relations,” H. R. Schaffer, ed., Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  10. Bronson, W., 1971, The growth of competence: Issues of conceptualization and measurement, “Origins of Human Social Relations,” H. R. Schaffer, ed., Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Clarke-Stewart, K., 1973, Interactions between mothers and their young children: Characteristics and consequences, Soc. for Research in Child Development Monographs, 38:6 #153.Google Scholar
  12. David, M., and Appell, G., 1961, A study of nursing care and nurse-infant e— 13f. n„ Lhe îirsp half of an investi- gation, in: “Determination of Infant Behavior,” Vol. 1, B. M. Foss, ed., Methuen, London.Google Scholar
  13. Finkelstein, N., and Ramey, C., in press, Learning to control the environment in infancy, Child Devel.Google Scholar
  14. Gunnar, M., 1978, Control and fear in infancy. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.Google Scholar
  15. Gunnar-v. Gnechten, M., 1976, The relationship between maternal responsiveness and infant timidity. Paper presented at meetings of the Western Psychological Association, April.Google Scholar
  16. Gunnar-v. Gnechten, M., 1978, Changing a frightening toy into a pleasant toy by allowing the infant to control its actions, Devel. Psychol., 14: 157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lefcourt, H., 1976, “Locus of Control: Current Trends in Theory and Research,” Wiley and Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  18. Levine, S., 1969, Infantile stimulation: A perspective, in: “Stimulation in Early Infancy,” A. Ambrose, ed., Academic Press, London.Google Scholar
  19. Lewis, M., and Goldberg, S., 1969, Perceptual-cognitive development in infancy: A generalized expectancy model as a function of the mother-infant interaction, Merrill-Palmer Quart., 15: 81.Google Scholar
  20. McCall, R., 1974, Exploratory manipulation and play in the human infant. Monograph of the Society for Research in Child Development, 39(2), Serial #155.Google Scholar
  21. Millar, W. S., 1972, A study of operant conditioning under delayed reinforcement in early infancy. Monograph of the Society for Research in Child Development, 37, Serial #147.Google Scholar
  22. Millar, W. S., and Schaffer, H. R., 1972, The influence of spatially displaced feedback on infant operant conditioning, J. Exp. Psychol., 14: 442.Google Scholar
  23. Morgan, G., and Riciutti, H., 1969, Infant responses to strangers during the first year, in: “Determinants of Infant Behavior, Vol. 4, Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  24. Pervin, L., 1963, The need to predict and control under conditions of threat, J. Personal., 31:570.Google Scholar
  25. Provence, S., and Lipton, R., 1963, “Infants in Institutions,” International Universities Press, New York.Google Scholar
  26. Ramey, C., and Finkelstein, N., 1977, The effects of responsive stimulations in early infancy. Paper given at meetings of the Society for Research in Child Development, New Orleans.Google Scholar
  27. Ramey, C. and Ourth, L., 1971, Delayed reinforcement and vocalization rates of infants, Child Devel., 42: 291.Google Scholar
  28. Ramey, C., Hieger, L. and Klisz, D., 1972, Synchronous reinforcement of vocal responses in failure-to-thrive infants, Child Devel., 43: 1449.Google Scholar
  29. Ramey, C., Starr, R., Pallas, J.,Whitten, C., and Reed, V., 1975Google Scholar
  30. Nutrition, response-contingent stimulation and the maternal deprivation syndrome: Results of an early intervention program, Merrill-Palmer Quart., 21(1):45.Google Scholar
  31. Rheingold, H., 1960, The measurement of maternal care, Child Devel., 31: 656.Google Scholar
  32. Rheingold, H., 1963, Controlling the infant’s exploratory behavior, in: “Determinants of Infant Behavior,” B. M, Foss, ed., Methuen, London.Google Scholar
  33. Rheingold, H., and Eckerman, C., 1969, The infant’s free entry into new environments, J. Exp. Child Psychol., 8:271.Google Scholar
  34. Rheingold, H., Gewirtz, J., and Ross, H., 1959, Social conditioning of vocalizations in the infant, J.Comp Physiol. Psychol., 52:68.Google Scholar
  35. Riccio, D., Rohrbaugh, M., and Hodges, L., 1968, Developmental aspects of passive and active avoidance learning in rats, Devel. Psychobiol., 1:108.Google Scholar
  36. Sade, D., 1967, Determinants of dominance in a group of free-ranging rhesus monkeys, in: “Social Communication among Primates,” S. Altman, ed., University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  37. Seligman, M., 1975, “Learned Helplessness: On Depressior., Development and Death,” Freeman and Company, San Francisco, Calif.Google Scholar
  38. Smotherman, W. P., Hunt, L. E., McGinnis, L. M. and Levine, S., 1979, Mother-infant separation in group-living rhesus macques: A hormonal analysis, Devel. Psychobiol, 12:211.Google Scholar
  39. Watson, J. S., 1966, The development and generalization of “contingency awareness” in early infancy: Some hypctheses, Merrill-Palmer Quart. 12: 123.Google Scholar
  40. Watson, J. S., 1967, Memory and “contingency analysis” in infant development, Merrill-Palmer Quart., 13: 55.Google Scholar
  41. Watson, J. S., 1977, Depression and the perception of ccntrol in early childhood., in: “Depression in Childhood: Diagnosis. Treatment and Conceptual Models,” J. G. Schulterbrandt and A. Raskin, eds., Raven Press, New York.Google Scholar
  42. Watson, J., and Ramey, C., 1969, Reactions to response–contingent stimulation in early infancy. Revision of a paper presented at meetings of the Society for Research in Child Development, March 1969.Google Scholar
  43. Watson, J., and Ramey, C., 1972, Reaction to response-ccntingent stimulation in early infancy, Merrill-Palmer Quart., 18: 219.Google Scholar
  44. White, R. W., 1959, Motivation reconsidered: the concept of competence, Psychol. Rev., 66:297.Google Scholar
  45. Wolff, P. H., 1969, The natural history of crying and other vocalizations in early infancy, in: “Determinants of Infant Behavior,” Vol. 4, Methuen, London.Google Scholar
  46. Yarrow, L., 1963, Research in dimensions of early maternal care, Merrill-Palmer Quart., 9: 101.Google Scholar
  47. Yarrow, L., 1977, The origins of mastery motivation, working paper of National Institute of Mental Health.Google Scholar
  48. Yarrow, L., Rubenstein, J., and Pederson, F., 1975, “Infant and environment: early cognitive and motivational development,” Wiley and Sons, New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Megan R. Gunnar
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University School of MedicineUSA

Personalised recommendations