Young infants' reasoning about the physical and spatial properties of a hidden object

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Abstract

The present experiments examined 7-month-old infants' ability to represent and reason about the physical and spatial properties of an occluded object. In Experiment 1, two groups of infants were tested. One group saw a screen that rotated 90° upwards and then, remaining vertical, slid backwards. The results showed that the infants expected the screen to stop sliding sooner when an object stood 10, as opposed to 25, cm behind it, suggesting that they (a) represented the location of the object behind the screen and (b) used this information to estimate at what point the screen should reach the object and stop. The other group of infants saw a screen that rotated upwards and then backwards, in the manner of a drawbridge. The results showed that the infants expected the screen to stop rotating sooner when an object 20, as opposed to 4, cm-high stood behind it, suggesting that they (a) represented the height of the object behind the screen and (b) used this information to judge at what point the screen should reach the object and stop. The infants in Experiment 2 also saw a screen that rotated upwards and then backwards. The results indicated that the infants expected the screen to stop sooner when an incompressible, as opposed to a compressible, object stood behind it (the two objects were of the same height). This finding suggested that the infants (a) represented the height and the compressibility of the object behind the screen and (b) used this information to determine at what point the screen should reach the object and whether it could continue rotating past this point (by compressing the object). The results of a control experiment supported this interpretation. Together, the results of Experiments 1 and 2 indicate that, contrary to Piaget's (1954) claims, 7-month-old infants can represent and reason about the physical and spatial properties of an occluded object. These results have implications for three areas of infancy research: object permanence, physical reasoning, and representation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-200
Number of pages22
JournalCognitive Development
Volume2
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1987

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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Young infants' reasoning about the physical and spatial properties of a hidden object. / Baillargeon, Renee L.

In: Cognitive Development, Vol. 2, No. 3, 07.1987, p. 179-200.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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