Development of the perception of invariants: Substance and shape

Academic Article


  • Three experiments investigated the perception of substance and shape as invariant properties of objects by three-month-old infants. In experiment 1, infants were habituated to two differently shaped objects undergoing a rigid motion. After habituation of the infants, the objects were presented undergoing a different rigid motion, or undergoing a deforming motion, or undergoing the same rigid motion. Habituation was maintained to the new rigid motion, indicating that the two rigid motions were perceived as sharing an invariant property. Dishabituation, on the other hand, occurred when a deforming motion followed a rigid one. In experiment 2, infants were habituated to one shape undergoing two different rigid motions. After habituation, the shape was changed but the same two motions continued. Dishabituation occurred, compared to a group with no shape change, indicating that shape is distinguished as an invariant property over two rigid motions. In experiment 3, habituation to a shape undergoing two rigid motions was followed by a new shape presented motionless, or the same shape presented motionless. Cessation of motion did not prevent recognition of shape as invariant. Two properties of an object, substance and shape, thus appear to be detectable as invariant in an event sequence, an instance of 'phenomenal doubling' at an early age.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Perception  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Gibson EJ; Owsley CJ; Walker A; Megaw-Nyce J
  • Start Page

  • 609
  • End Page

  • 619
  • Volume

  • 8