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Dev Psychol. 2010 Mar;46(2):446-54. doi: 10.1037/a0016543.

The early development of object knowledge: a study of infants' visual anticipations during action observation.

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Center for Cognition, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


This study examined the developing object knowledge of infants through their visual anticipation of action targets during action observation. Infants (6, 8, 12, 14, and 16 months) and adults watched short movies of a person using 3 different everyday objects. Participants were presented with objects being brought either to a correct or to an incorrect target location (e.g., cup to mouth, phone to ear vs. cup to ear, brush to mouth). When observing the action sequences, infants as well as adults showed anticipatory fixations to the target areas of the displayed actions. For all infant age-groups, there were differences in anticipation frequency between functional and nonfunctional object-target combinations. Adults exhibited no effect of object-target combination, possibly because they quickly learned and flexibly anticipated the target area of observed actions, even when they watched objects being brought to incorrect target areas. Infants, however, had difficulties anticipating to incorrect target locations for familiar objects. Together, these findings suggest that by 6 months of age, infants have acquired solid knowledge about objects and the actions associated with them.

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