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Discrimination of animate and inanimate motion in 9-month-old infants: an ERP study

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date10/2013
JournalDevelopmental cognitive neuroscience
Volume6
Number of pages9
Pages14-22
Early online date15/06/13
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Simple geometric shapes moving in a self-propelled manner, and violating Newtonian laws of motion by acting against gravitational forces tend to induce a judgement that an object is animate. Objects that change their motion only due to external causes are more likely judged as inanimate. How the developing brain is employed in the perception of animacy in early ontogeny is currently unknown. The aim of this study was to use ERP techniques to determine if the negative central component (Nc), a waveform related to attention allocation, was differentially affected when an infant observed animate or inanimate motion. Short animated movies comprising a marble moving along a marble run either in an animate or an inanimate manner were presented to 15 infants who were 9 months of age. The ERPs were time-locked to a still frame representing animate or inanimate motion that was displayed following each movie. We found that 9-month-olds are able to discriminate between animate and inanimate motion based on motion cues alone and most likely allocate more attentional resources to the inanimate motion. The present data contribute to our understanding of the animate–inanimate distinction and the Nc as a correlate of infant cognitive processing.