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Jennifer Yoon, Jonathan Winawer, Nathan Wittoft, Ellen Markman; Mooney image perception in preschool-aged children. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):548. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/7.9.548.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Two-tone or ‘Mooney’ images can be difficult for observers to recognize. However, after a brief presentation of the original photograph from which the Mooney was created, adults experience rapid and long-lasting perceptual reorganization, such that after the initial presentation, the Mooney image becomes immediately and easily recognizable, even without the corresponding cue. Following a previously reported observation (Kovacs & Eisenberg, 2004), we present striking evidence that, in contrast to adults, preschool-aged children are unable to recognize Mooney images in most cases, even when presented side-by-side with the corresponding photo. This result is especially striking in light of the fact that the children often claimed the Mooney image was ‘the same’ as the corresponding photo. However, when asked to draw corresponding parts of the photo and Mooney images (e.g., kitten's eyes), children marked correct regions of the photo and nonsensical regions of the Mooney (e.g., flowers in the background). Children were able to identify corresponding parts in control trials with blurred or contrast-altered images, showing that neither deficiencies in drawing ability nor lack of task understanding or motivation were responsible for this effect. In contrast, adults in all cases either recognized the Mooneys without cueing or reported immediate ‘pop-out’ after viewing the corresponding photos side-by-side. These results document a dramatic lack of perceptual reorganization in young children, even with simultaneous cues that allow instant recognition in adults. We suggest that this robust phenomenon may provide an exciting window into the development of high-level perceptual and cognitive mechanisms and consider interventions (e.g., Bernstein et al, 2005; Bruner & Potter, 1964; DeLoache, 2004) that rescue young children's poor recognition abilities.
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