Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Infants Are Able To Detect The 'Impossible' At An Early Age

Date:
March 21, 2007
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
If you've ever been captivated by an M.C. Escher drawing of stairways that lead to nowhere or a waterfall that starts and ends at the same place, then you are familiar with what psychologists describe as "impossible" objects and scenes. When do we develop the ability to perceive the difference between possible and impossible three-dimensional objects? New research in Psychological Science suggests that that infants as young as 4 months old have the ability to detect at least some three-dimensional features.

Impossible Object.
Credit: Sarah Shuwairi at New York University

If you've ever been captivated by an M.C. Escher drawing of stairways that lead to nowhere or a waterfall that starts and ends at the same place, then you are familiar with what Psychologists describe as "impossible" objects and scenes.

Related Articles


These are pictures or illusions of three-dimensional images that do not make any visual sense. Inevitably, we end up gawking at the image for several moments, attempting to make sense of the impossible.

These images are, of course, mere deceptions that result from our ability to create three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional images. An artist will use techniques such as shading, shadow, texture and the like to give his or her image a three-dimensional quality and sometimes, as in Escher's case, to confuse our ability to perceive them.

So when do we develop this ability to perceive coherence in three-dimensional objects? New York University perception researcher Sarah Shuwairi and her colleagues are now attempting to use this natural propensity to gaze at images of impossible objects to pinpoint when human infants develop the ability to perceive three-dimensional shape information from two-dimensional images.

To do this, Shuwairi enlisted 30 4-month-old infants to take part in a series of related experiments. With the help of their parents, the infant subjects sat in front of a computer screen that displayed alternating "possible" and "impossible" three-dimensional images. In the process, the researchers recorded how long the infants looked at each of the objects. As the reasoning goes, if the infants are sensitive to the visual features that give images a three-dimensional quality, they will inevitably gaze at the images that make no sense just as adults do; that is, they will stare at impossible objects longer.

The result was that infants looked significantly longer at impossible figures, suggesting that that as young as 4-months-old, humans have the ability to detect at least some three-dimensional features that give rise to the perception of object coherence.

Shuwairi explains that these findings, the first to document such abilities so early in development, "provide important insights into the development of mechanisms for processing pictorial depth cues that allow adults to extract 3D structure from pictures of objects." Ultimately, the implications of the research extend beyond the ability to be perplexed by visual impossibilities as researchers now have an additional tool to explain how infants develop an understanding of the physical world around them.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Infants Are Able To Detect The 'Impossible' At An Early Age." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 March 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070319111235.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2007, March 21). Infants Are Able To Detect The 'Impossible' At An Early Age. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070319111235.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Infants Are Able To Detect The 'Impossible' At An Early Age." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070319111235.htm (accessed November 25, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins