Fast detection and identification of objects in an environment is important for using objects as landmarks during navigation. While adults rapidly process objects within an environment and use landmarks during navigation, infants do not routinely use distal landmarks below the age of 18 months. In the current event-related potential (ERP) study we adopted an oddball paradigm to examine whether infants are capable of processing objects in environments, which is a prerequisite for using objects as landmarks.
We measured the electrophysiological correlates and time courses related to the processing of changes in object location, object identity, and a switch of two objects.
Twelve-month-old infants showed an Nc (negative central) effect reflecting increased attention likely caused by initial change detection within 300 msec for all three manipulations. In addition, they showed conscious processing of an object change and a location change as evidenced by a positive slow wave (PSW).
This study is the first to show that infants are capable of rapidly detecting changes in single objects when these are presented in an environment, but lack conscious detection of a switch. These results indicate that 12-month-old infants as yet lack the ability to rapidly bind the identity and location of multiple objects within an environment.