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Erik W. Cheries, Karen Wynn, Brian J. Scholl; Interrupting infants' persisting object representations: An object-based limit?. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):298. doi: 10.1167/6.6.298.
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Making sense of the visual world requires keeping track of objects as the same persisting individuals over time and occlusion. Here we explore a particular aspect of the processes and representations that support this ability in two ways, employing looking-time measures with 10-month-old infants. First, we demonstrate that persisting object representations can be maintained over brief interruptions from additional independent events — just as your memory of a traffic scene may be maintained through a brief glance in the rearview mirror. In particular, infants maintained accurate representations of the number of dolls in a display while they were behind a screen, despite an interruption wherein an additional novel salient object traversed the display between the initial presentation and test, while the dolls were out of view. Second, we demonstrate that this ability is nevertheless subject to an object-based limit: if the same extrinsic interruption is simply segmented into 4 (or even 2) objects, then it will impair the maintenance of other persisting objects: now the interruption — despite being perfectly equated in terms of overall salience, duration, and physical extent — destroys the representation of the number of dolls behind the screen. These experiments demonstrate how object representations can be studied via their ‘interruptibility’ and the results are consistent with the idea that infants' persisting object representations are constructed and maintained by capacity-limited mid-level ‘object-files’.
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