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Cognition. 2001 Mar;78(3):207-45.

Reasoning about containment events in very young infants.

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Department of Brain and Cognitive Science, NE20-423, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


The present research examined very young infants' expectations about containment events. In Experiment 1, 3.5-month-old infants saw a test event in which an object was lowered inside a container with either a wide opening (open-container condition) or no opening (closed-container condition) in its top surface. The infants looked reliably longer at the closed- than at the open-container test event. These and baseline data suggested that the infants recognized that the object could be lowered inside the container with the open but not the closed top. In Experiment 2, 3.5-month-old infants saw a test event in which an object was lowered either behind (behind-container condition) or inside (inside-container condition) a container; next, the container was moved forward and to the side, revealing the object behind it. The infants looked reliably longer at the inside- than at the behind-container test event. These and baseline results suggested that the infants in the inside-container condition realized that the object could not pass through the back wall of the container and hence should have moved with it to its new location. Experiments 3 and 4 extended the results of Experiments 1 and 2 to 2.5-month-old infants. Together, the present results indicate that even very young infants possess expectations about containment events. The possible origins and development of these expectations are discussed in the context of Baillargeon's model (Advances in infancy research 9 (1995) 305. Norwood, NJ: Ablex) of infants' acquisition of physical knowledge, and of Spelke's proposal (Cognition 50 (1994) 431) that, from birth, infants interpret physical events in accord with a solidity principle.

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