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Core knowledge revisited: Effects of fission, fusion and shape transformation on infants’ ability to represent inanimate and animate objects

Applicant Cacchione Trix
Number 126320
Funding scheme Ambizione
Research institution Allgemeine und Entwicklungspsychologie Psychologisches Institut Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.11.2009 - 30.04.2013
Approved amount 544'674.00
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Keywords (7)

cognitive development; infant cognition; representation; core knowledge; inanimate objects; animacy; cohesiveness and continuity

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
Contemporary research on core cognition and perception suggests that even the most elaborate adult cognition rests upon the very same core components that constitute human infants' basic cognition. This research project focuses on the question of how infants succeed to represent objects as distinct individuals persisting through space and time. Leading scientists propose that infants infer object persistence on the base of (probably innate) knowledge principles which provide criteria for "object-hood" and define what counts as an object in the first place. The present research project aims at delineating the particular role and relevance of one of the core principles on infants' ability to represent persisting objects: the principle of cohesion. In the sciences of physics and chemistry cohesion designates the coherence of atoms and molecules of a physical body or fluid. Obviously "perceived cohesion" (or "psychological cohesion") is not congruent with physical cohesion. In psychological terms, cohesion is exemplified by the presence of surface points and their spatiotemporal relations in the field of vision. To determine how perceived cohesiveness constitutes object identity, the present project plans to confront infants with situations where objects fail to behave in accord with cohesion: (a) with events of fission (where an object is split in one or multiple parts) and (b) with events of fusion (where two objects merge into a new superordinate structure). The contribution of perceived cohesion is investigated and compared for animate and inanimate bodies. What happens to infants' object representations under conditions of cohesion violation? Will the perceived violation of this core principle interrupt infants' representations of continuously existing objects? To investigate these questions a series of experimental studies are conducted including both perceptual and action measures. The questions addressed by the present research project tie in with the most central concerns of current research on cognitive development. Basic research on core cognition in human infants may help both to better understand how fundamental cognitive skills develop in human ontogeny as well as to get deeper insights in the architecture of adult cognition. Furthermore, it is of interdisciplinary relevance and may thus feed into various fields such as educational sciences, computer sciences, linguistics and philosophy.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Phylogenetic roots of quantity processing: Apes do not rely on object indexing to process quantities.
Cacchione T. Hrubesch C. & Call J. (2014), Phylogenetic roots of quantity processing: Apes do not rely on object indexing to process quantities., in Cognitive Development, 31, 79-95.
Apes’ tracking of objects and collections
Cacchione Trix, Hrubesch Christine & Call Josep (2013), Apes’ tracking of objects and collections, in Swiss Journal of Psychology, 73, 47-52.
Fourteen-month-old infants infer the continuous identity of objects on the basis of non-visible causal properties
Cacchione Trix, Schaub Simone & Rakoczy Hannes (2013), Fourteen-month-old infants infer the continuous identity of objects on the basis of non-visible causal properties, in Developmental Psychology, 49(7), 1325-1329.
Infants’ Individuation of Rigid and Plastic Objects Based on Shape
Schaub Simone, Bertin Evie, & Cacchione Trix (2013), Infants’ Individuation of Rigid and Plastic Objects Based on Shape, in Infancy, 18, 629-638.
The foundations of object permanence: Does perceived cohesion determine infants’ appreciation of the continuous existence of material objects
Cacchione Trix (2013), The foundations of object permanence: Does perceived cohesion determine infants’ appreciation of the continuous existence of material objects, in Cognition, 128, 397-406.
Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) quantify split solid objects
Cacchione Trix, Hrubesch Christine, & Call Josep (2012), Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) quantify split solid objects, in Animal Cognition, 16, 1-10.
The developmental and evolutionary origins of psychological essentialism lie in sortal object individuation
Rakoczy H. & Cacchione T., The developmental and evolutionary origins of psychological essentialism lie in sortal object individuation, in Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
Universal ontology: attentive tracking of objects and substances across languages and over development
Cacchione T. Indino M. Fujita K. Itakura S. Matsuno T. Schaub S. & Amici F, Universal ontology: attentive tracking of objects and substances across languages and over development, in International Journal of Behavioral Development.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Max Planck Institut für Evolutionäre Anthropologie, Leipzig Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Universität Kyoto Japan (Asia)
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Universität Göttingen Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
144897 The developmental origins of causal thought and its relevance to intuitive reasoning 01.09.2013 SNSF Professorships

Abstract

What enables infants to represent objects as distinct individuals persisting through space and time? According to the “core knowledge approach” (e.g., Spelke, 2000; Spelke & Kinzler, 2007) infants infer object persistence on the base of three basic principles: cohesion, continuity, and contact. Together these principles provide criteria for “object-hood” and define what counts as an object in the first place. The present research project aims at delineating the particular role and relevance of one of the core principles on infants’ ability to represent persisting objects: the principle of cohesion. In the sciences of physics and chemistry cohesion designates the coherence of atoms and molecules of a physical body or fluid. Obviously “perceived cohesion” (or “psychological cohesion”) is not congruent with physical cohesion, and the cohesive forces as described in physics are not directly accessible by visual perception. In psychological terms, cohesion is exemplified by the presence of surface points and their spatiotemporal relations in the field of vision. Two key features are proposed to be at the roots of infants’ inferences about object cohesion: connectedness (perceived contact between surface points) and boundedness (rigidity of contour). To determine how perceived cohesiveness constitutes object identity, the present project plans to confront infants with situations where objects fail to behave in accord with cohesion: (a) with events of fission (where an object is split in one or multiple parts) and (b) with events of fusion (where two objects merge into a new superordinate structure). In both cases, different aspects of cohesion are violated. Further, objects fail to trace exactly one spatiotemporal path and thus, violate the core foundation of physical thought (e.g., Spelke, 1994; Spelke & Van de Walle, 1993). What happens to infants’ persisting object representations under conditions of cohesion violation? Will the perceived violation of this core principle interrupt infants’ ability to represent the continuous existence of objects, and the objects thus cease to exist in the infants’ mind? Will infants’ reaction vary depending on the type of cohesion violations (fission/fusion), and will both types of cohesion violations be experienced different from mere shape transformations (which do not affect an object’s spatiotemporal continuity)? Further, are both aspects of cohesion (connectedness and boundedness) of equal importance to represent persisting objects? The contribution of perceived cohesion in processes of object individuation is investigated in two core knowledge systems: the core knowledge system of inanimate objects and mechanical interactions, and the core system of agents and goal-directed behaviour. Is the impact on representational abilities similar in these two core domains? Or do the cognitive mechanisms designed to individuate/represent animates allow for more degrees of freedom regarding connectivity and shape preservation than those specialized to perceive and reason about physical objects? The questions addressed by the present research project tie in with the most central concerns of current research on cognitive development and may reveal important insights into basic representational functions relevant to an interdisciplinary audience.
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