Infants' Developing Use of Body Information in Forming Categorical Representations of Human and Non-human Animals

PhD Thesis

Axelsson, Emma Linnea 2009. Infants' Developing Use of Body Information in Forming Categorical Representations of Human and Non-human Animals. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsAxelsson, Emma Linnea
TypePhD Thesis

Infants' developing representations of bodies were investigated in four studies. Based on previous research (Quinn & Eimas, 1996a; Spencer, Quinn, Johnson, & Karmiloff-Smith, 1997), the main aim was to investigate the role of featural information from heads and in particular bodies in
infants' category formations of human and non-human animals; and how this may change with age. Findings from an exploratory study (Study 1) suggested that 7- and 9-, but not 5-month-olds may be sensitive to body information when forming categories of both human and non-human animals. This was investigated further (Study 3) with 5- and 7-month-olds who were familiarised to typical images of human or non-human animals.
Infants were subsequently presented with a novel image from the familiarisation category paired with a 'crossed' stimulus. This image was made up of a head (of the familiarisation category) on a novel category body. Thus, after familiarisation to a category, the novel category was
presented in the body of the crossed stimulus. Only the 7-month-olds familiarised to non-human animals looked significantly longer at the crossed stimuli with a human body suggesting they may have attended to body information. After familiarisation to humans, 5- and 7-month-olds did not show any preferences, but a further sample of 9-month-olds did.
Thus, there may be asymmetries in the development of infants' category formations with regards to body information until 9 months of age. A separate test assessing infants' a priori preferences (Study 2) suggested
that infants' did not find typical or crossed stimuli more attractive. Study 4 explored the relationship between categorisation performance, and infants' motor development, mental development, and level of pre-exposure to non-human animals. No clear relationships were found. The findings
suggest that infants use body information to form categories from 7 months but there are asymmetries in the use of human and non-human animal body information until 9 months of age. These issues are discussed.

Publication dates
PrintOct 2009
Publication process dates
Deposited28 Oct 2013
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