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Acta Psychol (Amst). 1999 Sep;102(2-3):113-36.

Object individuation and object identity in infancy: the role of spatiotemporal information, object property information, and language.

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Department of Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Recent work on object individuation and object identity in infancy indicates that at least three sources of information may be used for object individuation and object identity: spatiotemporal information, object property information, and object kind information. Several experiments have shown that a major developmental change occurs between 10 and 12 months of age (Xu & Carey, 1996; Xu, Carey & Welch, in press; Van de Walle, Prevor & Carey, under review; Xu, Carey & Quint, in preparation): Infants at 10 months and younger readily use spatiotemporal information in object individuation and object identity tasks, but not until about 12 months of age are infants able to use object property or object kind information to do so. This paper proposes a two-part conjecture about the mechanism underlying this change. The first part borrows ideas from object-based attention and the distinction between "what" and "where" information in visual processing. The hypothesis is that (1) young infants encode object motion and location information separately from object property information; and (2) toward the end of the first year, infants integrate these two sources of information. The second part of the conjecture posits an important role for language. Infants may take distinct labels as referring to distinct kinds of objects from the onset of word learning, and infants use this information in solving the problem of object individuation and object identity. Evidence from human adults, infants, and non-human primates is reviewed to provide support for the conjecture.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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