Detecting impossible changes in infancy: a three-system account

Su hua Wang, Renée Baillargeon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


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 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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