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Cognition. 2004 Jan;90(3):265-302.

Priming infants to attend to color and pattern information in an individuation task.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University, 4235 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843, USA.


Wilcox (Cognition 72 (1999) 125) reported that infants are more sensitive to form than surface features when individuating objects in occlusion events: it is not until 7.5 months that infants spontaneously use pattern information, and 11.5 months that they spontaneously use color information, as the basis for object individuation. The present research assessed the extent to which infants' sensitivity to surface features could be increased under more supportive conditions. More specifically, we examined whether younger infants could be primed to draw on color and pattern features in an individuation task if they were first shown the functional value of attending to color and pattern information (i.e. the color or the pattern of an object predicted the function it would engage in). Five experiments were conducted with infants 4.5 to 9.5 months of age. The main findings were that 9.5- and 7.5-month-olds could be primed to use color information, and 5.5- and 4.5-month-olds could be primed to attend to pattern information, after viewing the function events. The results are discussed in terms of the kinds of experiences that can lead to increased sensitivity to surface features and the mechanisms that support feature priming in young infants.

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