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Title: A reinterpretation of the development of the object concept in infancy
Author: Neilson, Irene Ellen
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1978
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Although Piaget originally described the Object Concept as developing over six stages, in recent years the development of the object concept appears to have become synonymous with the eight month old infant's failure to search appropriately for an object hidden under one of two cloths in the Stage IV-V transition test. Much theoretical controversy centres on whether this failure reflects the infant's inability to represent objects that are no longer visible, his egocentric notions of space, or limitations of his motor, memory and information processing skills. This thesis argues that none of the above explanations are adequate. All are seen to suffer from a lack of consideration of what is known about the infant's competenoe at earlier stages in the developmental sequence. The pre-8 month old infant can conserve the existence of an object in other task contexts. Further practice at earlier stages of the development of the Object Concept beneficially effects the infant's performance in the Stage IV-V task suggesting that an explanation of the infant's difficulties in the latter task must relate to an explanation of all the stages in the developmental sequence. This thesis attempts to give such an explanation, an overall framework in which the interrelation of stages in the development of the Object Concept can be seen. It is called "The identity hypothesis". This hypothesis suggests that development through Stages I-III of the Object Concept is development of rules of object identity, rules that specify the sameness, the uniqueness of an object through the various transformations it may undergo. These rules are seen to constrain the set of spatial relations that may exist between objects. At around eight months of age, it is argued that the infant's concept of object identity is such that if an object shares a spatial boundary with another its individual identity is lost. Thus the spatial relationships 'inside' 'under' and 'on', are argued to be incomprehenisble to the infant. But, the former two relationships are involved in the Stage III-VI transition tasks. Thus it is argued that the infant's difficulties in these tasks stem not so much from the disappearance of the object per se, but from the type of spatial relationship pertain between the object and the occluder. This thesis offers support for this analysis by demonstrating that even if the object is not hidden from view, but rather placed inside a transparent container or on a platform in full view of the infant he nevertheless makes the characteristic Stage IV-V and V-VI transition errors. However this model of the development of the Object Concept runs into several difficulties. Contrary to prediction, the infant is observed to have difficulty on the Stage III-V transition tasks even if the object is hidden behind a screen, although such a spatial relationship does not generally involve the shaming of object boundaries. An attempt is made to incorporate this finding within the identity hypothesis by postulating that when the distance between the object and screen is small the infant does not see them as perceptibly separate from each other but rather as sharing a common boundary.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available