Visual exploration in adults: Habituation, mere exposure, or optimal level of arousal?

Erik Gustafsson, Coralie Francoeur, Isabelle Blanchette, Sylvain Sirois

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Exploration is one of the most powerful behaviours that drive learning from infancy to adulthood. The aim of the current study was to examine the role of novelty and subjective preference in visual exploration. To do this, we combined a visual exploration task with a subjective evaluation task, presenting novel and familiar pictures. The first goal was to ascertain whether, as demonstrated in babies, short habituation favors visual exploration of familiarity, whereas longer habituation leads to an exploration of novelty. The second goal was to evaluate the influence of familiarization on participants’ subjective evaluation of the stimuli. When presented with novel and very familiar stimuli, participants explored the novel stimuli more. In line with the optimal-level of arousal model, participants showed more positive evaluations of the semi-familiar stimuli compared with very familiar or very novel ones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-241
Number of pages9
JournalLearning & Behavior
Early online date20 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • Habituation
  • Mere exposure effect
  • Optimal-level of arousal
  • Engagement
  • Exploratory behaviours


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