Identification of objects in 9-month-old infants: integrating ‘what’ and ‘where’ information


Address for correspondence: Zsuzsa Káldy, Department of Psychology and Center for Cognitive Science, Rutgers University, 152 Frelinghuysen Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA; e-mail:


Following Leslie, Xu, Tremoulet and Scholl (1998), we distinguish between individuation (the establishment of an object representation) and identification (the use of information stored in the object representation to decide which previously individuated object is being encountered). Although there has been much work on how infants individuate objects, there is relatively little on the question of when and how property information is used to identify objects. Experiment 1 shows that 9-month-old infants use shape, but apparently not color, information in identifying objects that are each moved behind spatially separated screens. Infants could not simply have associated a shape with a location or a screen without regard to objecthood, because on alternate trials the objects switched locations/screens. Infants therefore had to bind shape information to the object representation while tracking the objects’ changing location. In Experiment 2, we tested if infants represented both objects rather than ‘sampled’ only one of them. Using the same alternation procedure, infants again succeeded in using shape (but not color) information when only one of the screens was removed – the screen that occluded the first-hidden object (requiring the longer time in memory). Finally, we relate our behavioral findings both to a cognitive model and to recent neuroscientific studies, concluding that ventral ‘what’ and dorsal ‘where’ pathways may be functionally integrated by 9 months.