LEARNING OBJECT CATEGORIES ACROSS TIME IN 4.5-MONTH-OLD INFANTS

Deon Benton , Rebecca Gomez

LEARNING OBJECT CATEGORIES ACROSS TIME IN 4.5-MONTH-OLD INFANTS

Previous research indicates that infants can use their experience with 3 box-shaped objects to form an object category that generalizes to a new object exemplar (Needham, Dueker, & Lockhead, 2003), and that infants can use this experience to segregate new category exemplars 72 hours later (Dueker, Modi, & Needham, 2005). The present experiment investigates whether infants can learn about novel category exemplars to form novel object categories across time. We predict that if infants can use their prior learning experience to segregate a test display 72 hours later, then they should look longer at the move-together test event than at the move-apart test event. However, if infants are unable to use their prior learning experience with the novel category exemplars, then they should look equally at the move-together and move-apart test events. We test this prediction by visiting infants at their homes on two days separated by 24 hours and present them with two novel exemplars for two minutes each. Seventy-two hours later, infants are exposed to the last novel exemplar for two minutes in the laboratory. Immediately after exposure to the last novel exemplar, infants are tested in either the move-together test event or the move-apart test event. In the move-apart test event, a hand grabs ahold of the test display and pulls the objects across the stage and the objects separate, indicating the test display contains two separate objects. In the move-apart test event, the objects move across the stage together when pulled, suggesting the test display is a single rectangular entity. Preliminary results demonstrate that infants looked longer at the move-together test event (M = 24.77 sec) than at the move-apart test event (M = 3.36 sec), t(3) = 9.67, p ≤ .011, indicating that infants segregated the novel objects along their shared border. This result suggests that infants can connect their experience across time to form an object category.  This ability to form object categories is important for acquiring knowledge about the world and generalizing to new instances. 

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