Infants May Use Contingency Analysis to Estimate Environmental States: An Evolutionary, Life-History Perspective

Willem E. Frankenhuis, György Gergely, John S. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)


Harshness and unpredictability early in life appear to be independently associated with long-term developmental outcomes, with environmental stressors affecting parental investment (e.g., responsiveness), which then shapes child development (e.g., onset of puberty). Research has detailed mediating physiological pathways, but has not specified how children transform experiences with their parents' and others' responsiveness into cognitive estimates about environmental harshness or unpredictability. In this article, we analyze this estimation process drawing on the study of contingency analysis. We propose that harshness and unpredictability produce distinct contingency profiles, and that children use these profiles to separately estimate each dimension. We conclude with six empirical predictions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-120
Number of pages6
JournalChild Development Perspectives
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2013



  • Control
  • Harshness
  • Life-history development
  • Parenting
  • Psychosocial acceleration
  • Social contingency
  • Unpredictability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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