Infant brains detect arithmetic errors Academic Article uri icon


  • A current debate is whether increased looking time in infancy is related to violation of expectations. In this study, 6- to 9-month-old infants’ brain activity was analyzed during presentation of correct and incorrect solutions to simple arithmetic equations [(e.g., presentation of 1 + 1; one doll on a TV monitor, with another doll added from behind a screen, followed by a solution of 2 (correct) or 1 (incorrect)]. Infants looked longer at incorrect solutions than at correct ones. Event-related potentials, time-locked to the presentation of the solution, also differed between conditions, with greater negative activity for the incorrect solution condition. Spectral analysis showed a similar pattern to that of adults observing correct and incorrect arithmetical equations. These findings show (i) that the brain network involved in error detection can be identified in infancy and (ii) that this network can support an association between looking time and violation of expectations. • early arithmetic • event-related potential • error detection • executive attention • self-regulation

publication date

  • January 1, 2006