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Cognition. 2004 Oct;93(3):167-98.

Young infants' reasoning about hidden objects: evidence from violation-of-expectation tasks with test trials only.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA.


The present research examined alternative accounts of prior violation-of-expectation (VOE) reports that young infants can represent and reason about hidden objects. According to these accounts, young infants' apparent success in these VOE tasks reflects only novelty and familiarity preferences induced by the habituation or familiarization trials in the tasks. In two experiments, 4-month-old infants were tested in VOE tasks with test trials only. The infants still gave evidence that they could represent and reason about hidden objects: they were surprised, as indicated by greater attention, when a wide object became fully hidden behind a narrow occluder (Experiment 1) or inside a narrow container (Experiment 2). These and control results demonstrate that young infants can succeed at VOE tasks involving hidden objects even when given no habituation or familiarization trials. The present research thus provides additional support for the conclusion that young infants possess expectations about hidden objects. Methodological issues concerning the use of habituation or familiarization trials in VOE tasks are also discussed.

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