Effects of balance relations between objects on infants' object segregation
Young infants are sensitive to support relations between objects. However, the types of contact perceived to be sufficient for object support change over development. At 4.5 months of age, infants expect an object to be adequately supported when in contact with another object. By 6.5 months, this simple contact/no-contact distinction is refined to account for proportion of contact: an object is perceived to be supported when 70% of its bottom surface is in contact with another object, but it is not perceived to be supported when 15% is contacted. Here, we employ an object segregation paradigm to investigate whether 8-month-old infants' judgments of support relations are mediated by assessments both of the proportion of contact and of the position of contact. Infants in the current experiments viewed test displays consisting of two objects, a long thin object (a box) and a smaller roughly cubic object (a box in Experiment 1, a cylinder in Experiments 2 and 3). Two basic positions of contact were used, such that either the centers or the lateral edges of the two objects were aligned. The proportion of contact was manipulated across experiments by having the smaller object support the larger or the larger object support the smaller. There was a significant effect of position of contact when only a small proportion of the upper object was contacted by the lower object. However, position of contact was found not to matter when all of the upper object was in contact with the lower object. We conclude that 8-month-old infants' judgments of support relations are influenced by both proportion and position of supporting contact. We integrate the findings from the current experiments into the general developmental framework proposed by Baillargeon and colleagues.
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