Exploratory play as an index of mastery motivation: Relationships to persistence, cognitive functioning, and environmental measures

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To measure exploratory play at 1 yr of age, 41 middle-class infants were observed in a free-play setting. In a separate session, 11 structured tasks assessed the infants' persistence in mastering tasks. In a 3rd session, the Bayley Scales of Infant Development were given. As part of another study, home observations were available for 40 of the infants at 1 yr of age and for 23 of the infants at 6 mo of age. Measures of quantitative aspects of exploratory play showed no relationship to persistence or cognitive development; however, measures indexing the quality of exploratory play did. In addition, environmental measures at both 6 and 12 mo were related to exploratory play at 1 yr, particularly to the production of perceptual effects; but some of these findings were opposite to those expected. Results suggest that the quality of exploratory play, rather than the quantity, is a better index of underlying mastery motivation. In addition, the widely accepted assumption of a link between the amount of general exploration and cognitive ability needs to be reexamined. (27 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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