Developmental Science

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Volume 10 Issue 4 (July 2007), Pages F15-F38, 423-511

Individuation of pairs of objects in infancy (pages 423-430)


Looking‐time studies examined whether 11‐month‐old infants can individuate two pairs of objects using only shape information. In order to test individuation, the object pairs were presented sequentially. Infants were familiarized either with the sequential pairs, disk‐triangle/disk‐triangle (XY/XY), whose shapes differed within but not across pairs, or with the sequential pairs, disk‐disk/triangle‐triangle (XX/YY), whose shapes differed across but not within pairs. The XY/XY presentation looked to adults like a single pair of objects presented repeatedly, whereas the XX/YY presentation looked like different pairs of objects. Following familiarization to these displays, infants were given a series of test trials in which the screen was removed, revealing two pairs of objects in one of two outcomes, XYXY or XXYY. On the first test trial, infants familiarized with the identical pairs (XY/XY) apparently expected a single pair to be revealed because they looked longer than infants familiarized with the distinct pairs (XX/YY). Infants who had seen the distinct pairs apparently expected a double pair outcome. A second experiment showed outcomes of a single XY pair. This outcome is unexpected for XX/YY‐familiarized infants but expected for XY/XY‐familiarized infants, the reverse of Experiment 1. This time looking times were longer for XX/YY infants. Eleven‐month‐olds appear to be able to represent not just individual objects but also pairs of objects. These results suggest that if they can group the objects into sets, infants may be able to track more objects than their numerosity limit or available working memory slots would normally allow. We suggest possible small exact numerosity representations that would allow tracking of such sets.

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