Article Review On Object Permanence In Infants

Type of paper: Article Review

Topic: Permanence, Study, Toys, Attention, Skills, Darkness, Education, Ability

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/05


Object permanence refers to the presence of objects even when someone is unable to observe that object. This concept has been found to be among the important concepts in developmental psychology.
Researchers have reported that objects may remain in the mind of infants even after their disappearance from the eyes. However, disappearance method such as sending the object behind another object that hides it, or sending the object in the darkness, or fading the object, plays an important role in object permanence.

Studies are also showing that attention has an important role to the increased feelings of object permanence in infants.

Object permanence is the concept of the presence of objects even in the absence of their observation such as touching, smelling, or seeing. This concept is one of the most important concepts in the study of developmental psychology. It was firstly presented by Jean Piaget (Piaget, 1976), who proposed that object permanence is an important accomplishment in the life of infants as with the help of this phenomenon, infants and young children are able to assess the presence of some objects. However, this phenomenon is mostly affected by the disappearance method of objects such as darkening the environment, fading the object, or occluding the object from infant’s approach. Attention span is also found to have an important role in this regard. However, further studies are required to confirm different aspects of object permanence such as the natural abilities of infants to go for the hidden object.

Summary of the Article “Object permanence and method of disappearance: looking measures further contradict reaching measures”

In the concept of object permanency, infants are able to know that in spite of changes in appearance existence remains. Piaget was of opinion that knowledge of permanency, knowledge of different occlusion and disocclusion events, and forming mental representations develop simultaneously. Further studies showed that in infants learning object permanence is the learning of distinguishing methods of disappearance. Researchers have also started considering object permanence as the “ability to mentally re-present no-longer seen objects.” Studies showed that infants are mentally much better than the views of Piaget. Researchers hypothesized that in the presence of object permanence 5-month old infants would be able to differentiate between different methods of disappearance. Researchers worked on this hypothesis of the relation of permanence with disappearance of objects on 80 infants in the age range of 5 to 6 months. They used a “Bower box” for this study having two identical compartments. They used three different methods of disappearance of objects in front of infants. These methods were occlusion, darkness, and fading. Forth method was that of empty. Researchers found that infants looked longer in the case of occlusion, fading, and darkness of objects as compared to the method of empty, i.e. when no object was placed in the start of the experiment. Researchers found that females look longer than males in the Empty condition, whereas males look longer than females in the Darkness Condition, i.e. when the object was sent into the darkness for a short period of time. Researchers concluded that duration of looking behavior of infants depends on the methods of disappearance and reappearance showing that the hypothesis was supported. Researchers found that infants expect the reappearance of occluded and faded objects but they are unable to expect the presence of endarkened objects. This research adds to the increasing number of investigations showing a contradiction between the amount of knowledge shown by infants in looking as well as reaching tasks. These are single time-point studies that are unable to accurately assess behavioral development as well as perceptual learning. Moreover, these studies have been done in an experimental setting, but further studies in everyday life of infants are required (Charles & Rivera, 2009).

Summary of the Article “Are infants in the dark about hidden objects?”

On the other hand in another study, researchers worked with 32, 6.5 month old infants and their parents to find the affect of disappearance method, i.e. darkness and occlusion, on infants. This research was performed on a wooden table in an experiment room in which all external sources of light were blocked. Primary factors in the study were occluders, i.e. the means of hiding the object and darkness. Infants received different events that were cloth-toy, cloth-no toy, dark-toy, and dark-no toy events. Moreover, familiarization events, i.e. cloth first or dark first, events were also considered. Researchers found that infants search more in case toy in the dark as compared to the toy hidden with a cloth. Moreover, both of these circumstances showed more search than no-toy trials in both conditions. It has been proposed that infants try to search more in darkness as they are often unable to remove the occluder. Researchers have also reported that frequency of reaching in dark in this research is lower than other related studies. In another experiment camera was placed with infants, and researchers worked with 16, 6.5 months old infants in both the cloth as well as dark events. This experiment also showed that infants searched more on toy trials as compared to no-toy trials in the dark as compared to the cloth. This finding has also been presented by more than one theory assuming that infants are more able to search in darkness as compared to hidden objects by occluders. This research is also suggesting that infants may go for cloth (occluder) to play with it but when the toy comes in front, value of cloth decreases. It is also showing that infants may make plans of searching the toys, and interruption in this plan could decrease their thinking or ability to go for the toy. Visible occlusion can decrease the chances of infants’ going for the toy probably due to less interference of darkness with the ability of infants reaching the toy (Shinskey & Munakata, 2003).

Summary of the Article “Negative affect predicts performance on an object permanence task”

Researchers have reported that several responses came to the Piaget’s seminal work. These responses were trying to explain the failure to search hidden objects correctly. They include memory, attention, and response inhibition. However, very little attention has been given to the infant’s own ability to maintain the affective state as, for example, their ability of attention shifting as well as gaze aversion. Infants start showing more active coping behaviors during 3 to 13.5 months of age showing cognitive development. Researchers have reported that negative effect (or emotion) can influence attentional processes limiting the infant’s ability to effectively engage in cognitive tasks such as finding the hidden objects. In this study, researchers worked on 36, 9-month old infants in order to find the connection between attention and search performance mediated by negative effects, i.e. level of affect shown by the infant in a given trial that disrupts the attention of infants and their ability to hold the location of the hidden object. Infants and their parents were presented to a two-location A-not-B task utilizing a 5-second delay between hiding and search. Researchers clearly hypothesized that increased levels of negative effects would relate to poor levels of task engagement and search performance, and vice versa. A semicircular, white table with a wooden top having two hiding wells was developed for this research. Parents and their infants were allowed to sit with the table and toys were used to encourage infants to make a search. Hypothesis has been supported by the results in that negative effect initiates the relationship between attention and search performance on A-not-B. Researchers have discussed that infants having high levels of negative effect on the third A trial (out of three trials of finding in A) were significantly less likely to find correctly for the object in first B trial, i.e. critical reversal trial (finding the object in location B). Moreover, infants who showed more attention during the tasks on third A trial showed more chances of searching correctly, i.e. in location B. Infants’ ability to retain their attention to the task, i.e. modulating the negative effects, was also found to be related to successful searches. This research is adding the concept of negative effects and attention to the object permanence thereby helping in object searching. This research has the limitation of checking pre-existing temperamental differences in infants that could result in differences in searching abilities as, for example, natural distractability, mood of infants, and emotional intensity could also play an important role in object searching. Further studies are required to confirm the search performance of infants in the B trial while considering their pre-existing temperamental differences. Moreover, this study is also unable to clarify the association of self-regulation and cognitive development (Keenan, 2002).


Charles, E. P., & Rivera, S. M. (2009). Object permanence and method of disappearance: looking measures further contradict reaching measures. Dev Sci, 12(6), 991-1006. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2009.00844.x
Keenan, T. (2002). Negative affect predicts performance on an object permanence task. Dev Sci, 5(1), 65-71.
Piaget, J. (1976). Piaget’s theory: Springer.
Shinskey, J. L., & Munakata, Y. (2003). Are infants in the dark about hidden objects? Dev Sci, 6(3), 273-282.

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