Object Permanence in 3 1/2- and 4 1/2-Month-Old Infants

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These experiments tested object permanence in 3 1/2- and 4 1/2-month-old infants. The method used in the experiments was similar to that used by Baillargeon, Spelke, and Wasserman (1985). The infants were habituated to a solid screen that rotated back and forth through a 180° arc, in the manner of a drawbridge. Following habituation, a box was placed behind the screen and the infants were shown two test events. In one (possible event), the screen rotated until it reached the occluded box; in the other (impossible event), the screen rotated through a full 180° arc, as though the box were no longer behind it. The 4 1/2-month-olds, and the 3 1/2-month-olds who were fast habituators, looked reliably longer at the impossible than at the possible event, suggesting that they understood that (a) the box continued to exist after it was occluded by the screen and (b) the screen could not rotate through the space occupied by the occluded box. Control experiments conducted without the box supported this interpretation. The results of these experiments call into serious question Piaget's (1954) claims about the age at which object permanence emerges and about the processes responsible for its emergence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-664
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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