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Alternative Title

Investigation into sortals and object individuation in preverbal infants

Publication Date


First Advisor

Jill de Villiers

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Sortals, Object perception, Infant cognitive development, Virtual experiment, Looking time, Individuation, Food catagorization


Sortals are concepts that provide specific principles of identity and individuation that allow objects to be represented differently from one another. Previous work has demonstrated that infants possess early developing principles of individuation related to the sortels OBJECT, HUMAN and LIVING THING (Xu, 2007a). The present study examined whether infants possess individuation principles related to a hypothesized sortal FOOD using the standard between- and within-subjects object individuation methodologies. A sample of 96 health full-term 8- to 13-month old infants were recruited and tested virtually using Lookit. Infants watches a series of pre-recorded videos and were randomly assigned to either a set of edible priming videos containing ostensive communication signals related to preferential edibility or a control set of priming videos. Infants were also randomly assigned to either see an impossible text display (1-fruit) or possible test display (2-fruit). Independent t-test results indicated that infants in the edible priming group did not look longer at the impossible (1-fruit) test display than infants in the control group. Additional independent t-test results indicated that 12-13 month old infants do not look longer at impossible (1-fruit) test display than at the possible (2-fruit) test display, contrary to results from previous studies (Stavans et al, 2019; Xu, 2007a). These null results are discussed in the context of the new push to virtual developmental science and the current replication crisis in infant cognitive development research.


©2021 Jenna Lea Croteau.




78 pages : color illustrations Includes bibliographical references (pages 72-78)