According to Jean Piaget, a prominent cognitive development psychologist in 1954, infants should have an understanding of object permanence at 12 months of age. Current research has backed this idea and shown that children younger than 2 years of age understand object permanence- shown through their increased looking times to inconsistent displays in which a moving object appears to have fallen through a solid shelf. However, current research used active search tasks with 2 year olds and found that they failed to search for the object consistently. My thesis explores why 2 year olds are failing search tasks if infants are appearing the understand object permanence with their looking responses. The Theory of Mind Lab at ASU designed a simple two door/two room apparatus to test 2 year olds’ ability to search for an object once it goes out of sight. Two doors open to two rooms separated by a green wall that extends above the front wall. Results showed that 2-year-olds randomly searched for the object. Perhaps children were not able to clearly differentiate the two separate spaces and ultimately started guessing because they assumed both doors go to the same room. Therefore, my thesis involved adding a ‘hallway’ between the two rooms to help children mentally separate the two spaces by showing them the bottom of the barrier. Despite the hallway, results showed that 2-year-olds again hardly performed above chance across all 6 trials. To remove the social aspects and the need to coordinate motor movement with knowledge of the object’s location, I designed a Visual Anticipation Task with automatic doors that required 2-year olds to merely look at the correct door for the hidden object. Results showed that children looked correctly at the first location correctly but when hidden in a new location in the second trial, perseverated and looked back at the first location. These results showed that 2-year olds do not understand object permanence at this age when it comes to both searching and looking.
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