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Psychol Sci. 2004 Nov;15(11):769-75.

Development of perceptual completion in infancy.

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  • New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA. scott.johnson@nyu.edu


Perceptual completion consists of bridging the gaps imposed by occlusion, such as perceiving the unity of center-occluded objects. It is unknown at present what developmental mechanisms underlie the emergence of functional perceptual completion in infancy. One current debate centers on the role of visible surface motion. According to a core-principles account, perceptual completion emerges simultaneously with the onset of motion discrimination, the sole determinant of unity percepts in infants. According to a contrasting constructivist account, motion discrimination is but one of several independent inputs to perceptual completion. In the present study, 2-month-old infants were tested for both unity perception and motion discrimination in partial-occlusion displays. Motion discrimination obtained under all conditions, even under circumstances in which infants were unable to perceive completion. Four-month-olds showed marked improvements in perceptual completion, most likely because of improvements in information integration. Taken together, these findings support a constructivist view of early perceptual and cognitive development.

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