The appearance-reality distinction in infants



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Texas Tech University


Infants' knowledge of the appearance-reality distinction was tested by analyzing their reaching skills. A total of twenty infants from two age groups (older group: mean 18.1 months, younger group: mean 12.7 months) were encouraged to reach for and grasp glowing objects in the dark. There were non-deceptive and deceptive objects. The nondeceptive objects looked similar in the light and dark and it was obvious to the infant where to reach for the objects in the dark. The deceptive objects looked different in the light and in the dark and there were no clues as to how to reach for these objects in the dark. Videotapes of infants' behaviors were scored based on the location and the appropriateness of the initial grasping attempt. Room dark time, reach onset time, contact time, and correction time (as needed) were also coded. Infants grasped the nondeceptive objects appropriately more often than the deceptive objects, though they still grasped the deceptive objects appropriately on half or more of the trials. These findings indicate that infants in the second year of life are not captured by appearances but can organize an action on the basis of a remembered object. For deceptive objects, infants tended to initiate a reach sooner after the room was darkened when making an appropriate grasp than an inappropriate grasp. These findings indicate that the representation of deceptive objects may not be stored for long in memory when a competing representation is present. Finally, there was little evidence for age group differences in these data, which is surprising given the results of earlier studies. The infants' age and the reach onset delay may each influence the infants' performance on these tasks.