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Geometric Complexity and Obejct Search in Infancy



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Developmental Psychology 1988 Vol 24 No 4 512 521 Copyright 1988 by the American Psychological Association Inc 0012 1649 88 0O 75 Geometric Complexity and Object Search in Infancy Barbara Landau Elizabeth Spelke Columbia University Cornell University In four experiments we investigated the role of geometric path type in infants ability to make spatial inferences about the location of a hidden object after they themselves had been moved through space Nine month old infants were moved along geometrically simple paths of rotation Experiments 1 and 2 or translation Experiment 3 or along geometrically complex paths of combined rotation and translation Experiment 4 In all but the fourth experiment infants were able to retrieve an object hidden before they were moved as long as the object was not located behind them at test time Direct comparisons among the conditions showed that moving infants along geometrically simple paths led to significantly better performance than moving them along geometrically complex paths We found the length of a path the time needed to traverse it and the likelihood offixationof die target to be unrelated to the infants performance Thesefindingsare discussed in the context of theories of the development of spatial knowledge After moving through space adults can usually relocate stable objects and positions even if the objects are not visible and their positions are not marked by distinctive landmarks We can determine the location of an object by using knowledge of its original position and of our path of movement Given the distance and direction of the object relative to our starting point and of our starting point relative to our final position we can infer the object s distance and direction from our final position Such inferences about location follow logically from geometric principles relating spatial positions they are similar to logical deductions although they are neither conscious nor effortful The ability to make such inferences is



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