Infants' sensitivity to familiar size: The effect of memory on spatial perception

Carl E. Granrud, Robert J. Haake, Albert Yonas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

Two experiments investigated infants' sensitivity to familiar size as information for the distances of objects with which they had had only brief experience. Each experiment had two phases: a familiarization phase and a test phase. During the familiarization phase, the infant played with a pair of different-sized objects for 10 min. During the test phase, a pair of objects, identical to those seen in the familiarization phase but now equal in size, were presented to the infant at a fixed distance under monocular or binocular viewing conditions. In the test phase of Experiment 1, 7-month-old infants viewing the objects monocularly showed a significant preference to reach for the object that resembled the smaller object in the familiarization phase. Seven-month-old infants in the binocular viewing condition reached equally to the two test phase objects. These results indicate that, in the monocular condition, the 7-month-olds used knowledge about the objects' sizes, acquired during the familiarization phase, to perceive distance from the test objects' visual angles, and that they reached preferentially for the apparently nearer object. The lack of a reaching preference in the binocular condition rules out interpretations of the results not based on the objects' perceived distances. The results, therefore, indicate that 7-month-old infants can use memory to mediate spatial perception. The implications of this finding for the debate between direct and indirect theories of visual perception are discussed. In the test phase of Experiment 2,5-month-old infants viewing the objects monocularly showed no reaching preference. These infants, therefore, showed no evidence of sensitivity to familiar size as distance information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-466
Number of pages8
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Volume37
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1985

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