Parts function as perceptual organizational entities in infancy

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Both objects and parts function as organizational entities in adult perception. Prior research has indicated that objects affect organization early in life: Infants grouped elements located within object boundaries and segregated them from those located on different objects. Here, we examined whether parts also induce grouping in infancy. Five- and 6.5-month-olds were habituated to two-part objects containing element pairs. In a subsequent test, infants treated groupings of elements that crossed part boundaries as novel, in comparison with groupings that had shared a common part during habituation. In contrast, the same arrangement of elements failed to elicit evidence of grouping in control conditions in which the elements were not surrounded by closed part boundaries. Thus, infants grouped and segregated elements on the basis of part structure. Part-based processing is a key aspect of many theories of perception. The present research adds to this literature by indicating that parts function as organizational entities early in life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)726-731
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from NSF (BCS-1121096). We thank the infants and the parents who participated in this study. Address correspondence to Ramesh S. Bhatt, Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0044, U.S.A. Email:


  • Infancy
  • Object-based attention
  • Part perception
  • Perceptual organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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