Object individuation in young infants: Further evidence with an event-monitoring paradigm

Teresa Wilcox, Renee Baillargeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Recent results indicate that, when tested with an event-monitoring task, 7.5- and 9.5-month-olds give evidence that they can individuate objects in different-objects occlusion events - events in which two distinct objects appear successively on either side of an occluder (Wilcox and Baillargeon, in press). The present research sought to confirm and extend these findings. The experiments examined 7.5- and 4.5-month-olds' ability to correctly interpret a different-objects (ball-box condition) and a same-object (ball-ball condition) occlusion event. The infants in the ball-box condition saw a test event in which a ball disappeared behind the left edge of a screen; after a pause, a box emerged from behind the screen's right edge. For half of the infants (wide-screen event), the screen was wide and could occlude the ball and box simultaneously; for the other infants (narrow-screen event), the screen was narrow and should not have been able to occlude the ball and box at the same time. The infants in the ball-ball condition saw identical wide- and narrow-screen events except that the ball appeared on both sides of the screen. The infants in the ball-box condition looked reliably longer at the narrow-than at the wide-screen event, whereas those in the ball-ball condition tended to look equally at the events. These results suggest that the ball-box infants (a) were led by the featural differences between the ball and box to view them as distinct objects; (b) judged that the ball and box could both be occluded by the wide but not the narrow screen; and (c) were surprised in the narrow-screen event when this judgment was violated. In contrast, the ball-ball infants (a) assumed, based on the featural similarities of the balls that appeared on either side of the screen, that they were one and the same ball, and (b) realized that the ball could be occluded by either the wide or the narrow screen. These results indicate that, by 45 months of age, infants are able to use featural information to correctly interpret different-objects and same-object occlusion events. These findings are discussed in the context of the newly-drawn distinction between event-monitoring and event-mapping paradigms (Wilcox and Baillargeon, in press).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-142
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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