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Bria Long, Susan Carey, Talia Konkle; Pre-verbal infants automatically activate real-world object size information . Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1408. doi: 10.1167/16.12.1408.
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When adults recognize an object, they automatically activate real-world size information: in the familiar-size Stroop effect, adults are faster to detect if an item is bigger on the screen when they know it is bigger in the world (Konkle & Oliva, 2012). Here we examined whether this phenomenon also occurs in pre-verbal infants, who have had significantly less experience with objects and who do not even know the words "big" and "small." To do so, we used a natural-preference procedure: 13-month-olds viewed two objects on either side of fixation while a Tobii T60 monitored their eye position. Critically, the visual size of objects was either congruent (e.g., a big car and a small shoe) or incongruent (e.g., a big shoe and a small car) with their familiar size in the world. Infants viewed displays for a maximum of 10s (Exp1) or 30s (Exp2) or until they looked away for a cumulative (Exp1) or consecutive (Exp2) total of 2s. Across both experiments, we found that infants preferred to look at the object that was visually bigger on the screen; however, this effect was significantly reduced on incongruent displays (E1: Mdiff=.059, SDdiff=.12, t(15)=1.94 p=.036, one-tailed; E2: Mdiff=.044, SDdiff=.089, t(15)=1.99 p=.032, one-tailed). Specifically, though infants first looked at the visually bigger object on both kinds of displays, on incongruent displays infants gradually spent more time looking at the object that is typically bigger in the world, even though it was visually smaller on the screen. In other words, infants naturally preferred to look at both visually big and typically big objects. Thus, pre-verbal infants were sensitive to the congruence between visual size and real-world size. While this automatic association could have taken years to develop, these results suggest that real-world size information is incorporated into infants' early-emerging object representations.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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