cognitive development; infant cognition; representation; core knowledge; inanimate objects; animacy; cohesiveness and continuity
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.
Cacchione Trix, Hrubesch Christine & Call Josep (2013), Apes’ tracking of objects and collections, in Swiss Journal of Psychology
, 73, 47-52.
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.
Schaub Simone, Bertin Evie, & Cacchione Trix (2013), Infants’ Individuation of Rigid and Plastic Objects Based on Shape, in Infancy
, 18, 629-638.
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.
Cacchione Trix, Hrubesch Christine, & Call Josep (2012), Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) quantify split solid objects, in Animal Cognition
, 16, 1-10.
Rakoczy H. & Cacchione T., The developmental and evolutionary origins of psychological essentialism lie in sortal object individuation, in Behavioral and Brain Sciences
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
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.