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Cognition. 2002 Oct;85(3):203-21.

Objects are individuals but stuff doesn't count: perceived rigidity and cohesiveness influence infants' representations of small groups of discrete entities.

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Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA.


Young infants construct models of the world composed of objects tracked through time and occlusion. To date little is known about the degree to which these models are sensitive to the material make-up of the represented individuals. Two experiments probed 8-month-olds' ability to represent different kinds of entities: rigid, cohesive objects, flexible, cohesive objects, and non-rigid, non-cohesive portions of sand. In Experiment 1, infants represented an array of two rigid, cohesive objects hidden behind a single screen, but failed to represent hidden arrays of two flexible objects or two portions of sand. In Experiment 2, entities were hidden behind two screens instead of one, thereby reducing the information processing demands of the task. In that case, infants succeeded in representing arrays of both types of object stimuli, but again failed to represent the portions of sand. It is argued that (1) the processes by which infants individuate and track entities are sensitive to material kind, (2) rigid cohesive objects occupy a privileged status in this system, and (3) early knowledge about objects and substances has a quantificational aspect.

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