Detecting impossible changes in infancy: a three-system account

Su hua Wang, Renée Baillargeon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Can infants detect that an object has magically disappeared, broken apart or changed color while briefly hidden? Recent research suggests that infants detect some but not other 'impossible' changes; and that various contextual manipulations can induce infants to detect changes they would not otherwise detect. We present an account that includes three systems: a physical-reasoning, an object-tracking, and an object-representation system. What impossible changes infants detect depends on what object information is included in the physical-reasoning system; this information becomes subject to a principle of persistence, which states that objects can undergo no spontaneous or uncaused change. What contextual manipulations induce infants to detect impossible changes depends on complex interplays between the physical-reasoning system and the object-tracking and object-representation systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-23
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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