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Speed and direction changes induce the perception of animacy in 7-month-old infants

By Birgit eTräuble, Sabina ePauen and Diane ePoulin-Dubois


A large body of research has documented infants’ ability to classify animate and inanimate objects based on static or dynamic information. It has been shown that infants less than one year of age transfer animacy-specific expectations from dynamic point-light displays to static images. The present study examined whether basic motion cues that typically trigger judgments of perceptual animacy in older children and adults lead 7-month-olds to infer an ambiguous object’s identity from dynamic information. Infants were tested with a novel paradigm that required inferring the animacy status of an ambiguous moving shape. An ambiguous shape emerged from behind a screen and its identity could only be inferred from its motion. Its motion pattern varied distinctively between scenes: it either changed speed and direction in an animate way, or it moved along a straight path at a constant speed (i.e. in an inanimate way). At test, the identity of the shape was revealed and it was either consistent or inconsistent with its motion pattern. Infants looked longer on trials with the inconsistent outcome. We conclude that 7-month-olds’ representations of animates and inanimates include category-specific associations between static and dynamic attributes. Moreover, these associations seem to hold for simple dynamic cues that are considered minimal conditions for animacy perception

Topics: Categorization, Infancy, animacy perception, animate-inanimate distinction, category-specific motion, Psychology, BF1-990
Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01141
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