Objective: The present study investigated two experimental paradigms to explore whether individual differences in adult responses to crying were related to the method of presentation of the crying infant – namely, a video simulation or a life-like programmable doll. Background: The importance of understanding individual differences in caregiver responses to infant crying is well recognised, but assessment of caregiver responses presents considerable methodological challenges. Method: Participants were 106 female childless undergraduate students. Responses assessed included self-report measures of self-efficacy beliefs, feelings of empathy toward the crying infant, caregiver concern and irritation, and heart-rate reactivity. Participants were randomly allocated to exposure to either a life-like crying doll or to a video of a crying infant. Results: Compared to those in the video condition, participants exposed to the crying doll showed lower self-efficacy beliefs, experienced greater feelings of irritation and a greater change in heart-rate responses, p <.05, but no differences in feelings of concern or empathy towards the infant. Conclusion: Findings provide preliminary evidence that the crying doll paradigm may be a more ecologically valid approach to exploring the impact of crying on adults; however, methodological considerations related to individual differences in physiological responses need further clarification in future research.
- ecological validity
- infant crying