Parts, Cavities, and Object Representation in Infancy

Angela Hayden, Ramesh S. Bhatt, Ashley Kangas, Nicole Zieber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Part representation is not only critical to object perception but also plays a key role in a number of basic visual cognition functions, such as figure-ground segregation, allocation of attention, and memory for shapes. Yet, virtually nothing is known about the development of part representation. If parts are fundamental components of object shape representation early in life, then the infant visual system should give priority to parts over other aspects of objects. We tested this hypothesis by examining whether part shapes are more salient than cavity shapes to infants. Five-month-olds were habituated to a stimulus that contained a part and a cavity. In a subsequent novelty preference test, 5-month-olds exhibited a preference for the cavity shape, indicating that part shapes were more salient than cavity shapes during habituation. The differential processing of part versus cavity contours in infancy is consistent with theory and empirical findings in the literature on adult figure-ground perception and indicates that basic aspects of part-based object processing are evident early in life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-317
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Infant perception
  • Infants' attention to object parts
  • Object representation
  • Part perception in infancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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