Infants' Rapid Learning About Self-Propelled Objects

Six experiments investigated 7-month-old infants’ capacity to learn about the self-propelled motion of an object. After observing 1 wind-up toy animal move on its own and a second wind-up toy animal move passively by an experimenter’s hand, infants looked reliably longer at the former object during a subsequent stationary test, providing evidence that infants learned and remembered the mapping of objects and their motions. In further experiments, infants learned the mapping for different animals and retained it over a 15-min delay, providing evidence that the learning is robust and infants’ expectations about self-propelled motion are enduring. Further experiments suggested that infants’ learning was less reliable when the self-propelled objects were novel or lacked faces, body parts, and articulated, biological motion. The findings are discussed in relation to infants’ developing knowledge of object categories and capacity to learn about objects in the first year of life.
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