The Development of Visual-Tactual Perception of Objects: Amodal Relations Provide the Basis for Learning Arbitrary Relations

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Infants of 4 and 6 months were familiarized with an object visually and factually and then tested for visual-tactual matching on the basis of amodal and arbitrary relations or arbitrary relations only (Experiment 1). Results indicated that both the 4- and the 6-month-olds were capable of matching when amodal information specifying the common shape of the visual and tactual stimulation was available during test. In contrast, only the 6-month-olds were capable of matching on the basis of arbitrary relations between the haptically experienced shape of the object and its color or pattern. A control study (Experiment 2) demonstrated that the 4-month-olds were, in fact, able to discriminate the colors or patterns used. Results were interpreted as consistent with findings in the area of audiovisual event perception, demonstrating a developmental lag between detection of amodal and arbitrary relations. Finally, Experiment 3 explored the basis for 6-month-olds' detection of the arbitrary relations in Experiment 1. Results demonstrated that when amodal information for shape was eliminated during familiarization, infants were no longer able to match on the basis of arbitrary relations. These findings are consistent with an invariant-detection view and suggest that amodal information can serve as a basis for learning about arbitrary relations.



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