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Tracking individuals via object-files: evidence from infants’ manual search


Lisa Feigenson, Ames Hall, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA; e-mail:


In two experiments, a manual search task explored 12- to 14-month-old infants’ representations of small sets of objects. In this paradigm, patterns of searching revealed the number of objects infants represented as hidden in an opaque box. In Experiment 1, we obtained the set-size signature of object-file representations: infants succeeded at representing precisely 1, precisely 2, and precisely 3 objects in the box, but failed at representing 4 (or even that 4 is greater than 2). In Experiment 2, we showed that infants’ expectations about the contents of the box were based on number of individual objects, and not on a continuous property such as total object volume. These findings support the hypothesis that infants maintained representations of individuals, that object-files were the underlying means of representing these individuals, and that object-file models can be compared via one-to-one correspondence to establish numerical equivalence.