Every day, young learners are confronted with challenges. The degree to which they persist in overcoming those challenges, and the different ways they persist, provides critical insights into the various cognitive, motoric, and affective processes that drive behavior. Here, we present a systematic overview of the methodologies that have been traditionally used to study persistence, and offer suggestions for new approaches to the study of persistence that will make strides in moving the field forward. We argue that automated measures of force and motion, which have long been used in the study of infants’ motoric behavior, can provide a means to unravel the psychological processes that guide infants’ trying behavior. To illustrate this, we present a case study that highlights the novel lessons to be learned by the use of automated measures of force and motion regarding infants’ persistence, along with an analysis of the benefits and drawbacks of this approach, as well as detailed instructions for application. In sum, we conclude that these measures, when used in conjunction with more traditional approaches, will provide creative new insights into the nature and development of early persistence.
Lucca, Gire, Horton, and Sommerville are with the Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Lucca is also with the Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ. Sommerville is also with the Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.