Infants' haptic perception of object unity in rotating displays

Four-month-old infants were allowed to manipulate, without vision, two rings attached to a bar that permitted each ring to undergo rotary motion against a fixed surface. In different conditions, the relative motions of the rings were rigid, independent, or opposite, and they circled either the same fixed point outside the zone of manipulation or spatially separated points. Infants’ perception of the ring assemblies were affected by the nature of the rotary motion in two ways. First, infants perceived a unitary object when the felt ends of the object underwent a common, rigid rotary motion; perception of object unity was stronger in this condition than when the ends underwent either independent or opposite rotary motions. Second, infants perceived two distinct objects when the felt ends of the objects underwent independent rotary motions that centred on distinct fixed points. Perception of the distinctness of the objects was less clear when the ends underwent opposite or independent rotary motions that centred on a common fixed point. These findings provide the first evidence that infants are sensitive to rotary motion patterns and can extrapolate a global pattern of rigid motion from the distinct, local velocities that they produce and experience at their two hands.
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