2.5-Month-Old Infants' Reasoning about When Objects Should and Should Not Be Occluded

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The present research examined 2.5-month-old infants' reasoning about occlusion events. Three experiments investigated infants' ability to predict whether an object should remain continuously hidden or become temporarily visible when passing behind an occluder with an opening in its midsection. In Experiment 1, the infants were habituated to a short toy mouse that moved back and forth behind a screen. Next, the infants saw two test events that were identical to the habituation event except that a portion of the screen's midsection was removed to create a large window. In one event (high-window event), the window extended from the screen's upper edge; the mouse was shorter than the bottom of the window and thus did not become visible when passing behind the screen. In the other event (low-window event), the window extended from the screen's lower edge; although the mouse was shorter than the top of the window and hence should have become fully visible when passing behind the screen, it never appeared in the window. The infants tended to look equally at the high- and low-window events, suggesting that they were not surprised when the mouse failed to appear in the low window. However, positive results were obtained in Experiment 2 when the low-window event was modified: a portion of the screen above the window was removed so that the left and right sections of the screen were no longer connected (two-screens event). The infants looked reliably longer at the two-screens than at the high-window event. Together, the results of Experiments 1 and 2 suggested that, at 2.5 months of age, infants possess only very limited expectations about when objects should and should not be occluded. Specifically, infants expect objects (1) to become visible when passing between occluders and (2) to remain hidden when passing behind occluders, irrespective of whether these have openings extending from their upper or lower edges. Experiment 3 provided support for this interpretation. The implications of these findings for models of the origins and development of infants' knowledge about occlusion events are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116-157
Number of pages42
JournalCognitive Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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