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Young infants' visual fixation patterns in addition and subtraction tasks support an object tracking account

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/10/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume162
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)199-208
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date13/06/17
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Investigating infants' numerical ability is crucial to identifying the developmental origins of numeracy. Wynn (1992) Nature, 358, 749-750, claimed that 5-month-old infants understand addition and subtraction as indicated by longer looking at outcomes that violate numerical operations (i.e., 1 + 1 = 1, or 2 – 1 = 2). However, her claim is contentious, with others suggesting that her results might reflect a familiarity preference for the initial array, or that they could be explained in terms of object tracking. To cast light on this controversy, Wynn’s conditions were replicated with conventional looking time supplemented with eye tracker data. In the incorrect outcome of 2 in a subtraction event (2 – 1 = 2) infants looked selectively at the incorrectly present object, a finding that is not predicted by an initial array preference account or a symbolic numerical account, but which is consistent with a perceptual object tracking account. It appears that young infants can track at least one object over occlusion, and this may form the precursor of numerical ability.