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Stephen Mitroff, Su-hua Wang; Preserved visual representations despite change blindness in 11-month-old infants. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):656. doi: 10.1167/7.9.656.
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The nature of visual representations remains an unanswered question. Whereas some change detection research might suggest that visual representations are fleeting and sparse, recent findings demonstrate that change blindness can result from a failure to compare available representations rather than from a failure to form representations. Observers can miss a change but still have access to the pre- and post-change information, suggesting representations can be robust, even if they are not compared to one another (Mitroff, Simons, & Levin, 2004). Here we find comparable results with infants — when they fail to notice a physical change, they nonetheless remember both the pre- and post-change information. Wang and Baillargeon (2006) showed 11-month-old infants an event in which an opaque tall cover was lowered over a short block. When the cover was lifted to reveal that the block had become much taller, the infants did not look longer than if the block were uncovered as the same height, suggesting they failed to detect the change. (When the block was hidden behind the cover through occlusion, however, the infants nevertheless detected the change.) Here we presented 11-month-old infants with a change from a short to a tall block through covering, but then administered to them a preferential-looking task: On alternating trials they were shown the short and a medium block, or the tall and a medium block. All blocks were identical except in height. Consistent with the view of maintained representations despite change blindness, the infants looked longer at the medium block than at either of the previously seen ones (a classic novelty preference revealing memory for the short and tall blocks). These results are developmentally significant, demonstrating an infant-adult parallel, and are also informative for the nature of visual representations, showing limited performance in infants does not necessarily reveal a representational failure.
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