Transfer of associative grouping to novel perceptual contexts in infancy

Ashley Kangas, Nicole Zieber, Angela Hayden, Paul C. Quinn, Ramesh S. Bhatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Learning can be highly adaptive if associations learned in one context are generalized to novel contexts. We examined the development of such generalization in infancy in the context of grouping. In Experiment 1, 3- to 4-month-olds and 6- to 7-month-olds were habituated to shapes grouped via the organizational principle of common region and were tested with familiar and novel pairs as determined by the principle of proximity. Older infants generalized from common region to proximity, but younger infants did not. Younger infants failed to generalize when the task was easier (Experiment 2), and their failure was not due to inability to group via proximity (Experiment 3). However, in Experiment 4, even younger infants generalized grouping on the basis of connectedness to proximity. Thus, the ability to transfer learned associations of shapes to novel contexts is evident early in life, although it continues to undergo quantitative change during infancy. Moreover, the operation of this generalization mechanism may be induced by means of bootstrapping onto functional organizational principles, which is consistent with a developmental framework in which core processes scaffold learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2657-2667
Number of pages11
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Gestalt grouping
  • Infant development
  • Perceptual learning
  • Perceptual organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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