Object-centred spatial reference in 4-month-old infants

Andrew J. Bremner*, Peter E. Bryant, Denis Mareschal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


An appreciation of object-centred spatial relations involves representing a 'within-object' spatial relation across changes in the object orientation. This representational ability is important in adult object recognition [Biederman, I. (1987). Recognition-by-components: A theory of human image understanding. Psychological Review, 94, 115-147; Marr, D., & Nishihara, H. K. (1978). Representation and recognition of the spatial organisation of three-dimensional structure. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B (Biological Sciences), 200, 269-294; Tarr, M. J., & Pinker, S. (1990). When does human object recognition use a viewer-centred reference frame? Psychological Science, 1, 253-256] and is also thought to be a fundamental component of the mature object concept [Piaget, J. (1954). The Construction of Reality in the Child. Routledge & Kegan-Paul: London, UK. (Originally published in French in 1937)]. An experiment is reported in which eighteen 4-month-old infants were familiarised to a specific spatial relation within an object, across six different orientations of the object. On subsequent test trials the object was presented to the infants in an entirely novel orientation. Between successive test trials the within-object spatial relation was alternated between novel and familiar. The infants demonstrated significant sensitivity of their looking to both the novelty of the stimuli and the order in which novel and familiar stimuli were presented. It is concluded that by 4 months of age infants are able to form object-centred spatial frames of reference. These findings are discussed in the light of our current understanding of the development of object representation during infancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


  • Cognitive development
  • Infancy
  • Object concept
  • Object recognition
  • Spatial representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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