Phenomenal Permanence and the Development of Predictive Tracking in Infancy


  • This research was supported in part by grants from the Robert McCormick-Tribune Foundation and from the National Science Foundation (SBE9704764), and a predoctoral fellowship award (DGE-0202337) from the National Science Foundation to Matthew R. Longo. Portions of the data were previously presented at the Meetings of the International Conference on Infant Studies, Toronto, Canada, April 2002. We would like to express our appreciation to April Faith-Slaker and Stephen Makin for their assistance in scoring the data and to Adam Kosobud for his assistance in creating the stimulus figures.

concerning this article should be addressed to Bennett I. Bertenthal, The University of Chicago, Department of Psychology, 5848 South, University Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. Electronic mail may be sent to


The perceived spatiotemporal continuity of objects depends on the way they appear and disappear as they move in the spatial layout. This study investigated whether infants' predictive tracking of a briefly occluded object is sensitive to the manner by which the object disappears and reappears. Five-, 7-, and 9-month-old infants were shown a ball rolling across a visual scene and briefly disappearing via kinetic occlusion, instantaneous disappearance, implosion, or virtual occlusion. Three different measures converged to show that predictive tracking increased with age and that infants were most likely to anticipate the reappearance of the ball following kinetic occlusion. These results suggest that infants' knowledge of the permanence and nonpermanence of objects is embodied in their predictive tracking.