Object Permanence in Young Infants: Further Evidence

Renée Baillargeon, Julie DeVos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent evidence suggests that 4.5‐ and even 3.5‐month‐old infants realize that objects continue to exist when hidden. The goal of the present experiments was to obtain converging evidence of object permanence in young infants. Experiments were conducted using paradigms previously used to demonstrate object permanence in 5.5‐month‐old infants and 6.5‐month‐old infants. In one experiment, 3.5‐month‐old infants watched a short or a tall carrot slide along a track. The track's center was hidden by a screen with a large window in its upper half. The short carrot was shorter than the window's lower edge and so did not appear in the window when passing behind the screen; the tall carrot was taller than the window's lower edge and hence should have appeared in the window but did not. The infants looked reliably longer at the tall than at the short carrot event, suggesting that they (a) represented the existence, height, and trajectory of each carrot behind the screen and (b) expected the tall carrot to appear in the screen window and were surprised that it did not. Control trials supported this interpretation. In another experiment, 4.0‐month‐old infants saw a toy car roll along a track that was partly hidden by a screen. A large toy mouse was placed behind the screen, either on top or in back of the track. The female infants looked reliably longer when the mouse stood on top as opposed to in back of the track, suggesting that they (a) represented the existence and trajectory of the car behind the screen, (b) represented the existence and location of the mouse behind the screen, and (c) were surprised to see the car reappear from behind the screen when the mouse stood in its path. A second experiment supported this interpretation. The results of these experiments provide further evidence that infants aged 3.5 months and older are able to represent and to reason about hidden objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1227-1246
Number of pages20
JournalChild development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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