Experiments investigate the early development of knowledge of the immediately surrounding world. Three series of experiments focus on human infants? developing perception and understanding of objects, investigating how infants perceive visible objects, represent the existence, location, and behavior of hidden objects, and learn about objects in the categories of animals, tools, and food. Three further series of experiments focus on infants? developing sensitivity to number, investigating how well infants discriminate among numerosities in visual-spatial arrays and in visual and auditory event sequences, whether they detect numerical correspondences both across auditory and visual modalities and across temporal and spatial formats, and whether they are sensitive to numerical order. Three classes of methods are used to assess infants? perceptual and cognitive development. First, preferential looking and head-turning methods focus on infants? tendency to attend longer to events that are novel or to objects that are self-propelled. Second, reaching methods focus on infants? tendency to reach predictively for moving objects and to reach preferentially for objects that have been observed to exhibit a particular behavior or function. Third, methods for recording high-density event-related potentials following the introduction of a novel object or numerosity serve to investigate both the time course and the developing cerebral mechanisms of object and number representation. The long-term goals of this proposal are to discover core human conceptions of the world through studies of their origins in infancy, to chart the role of these core systems in the development of cognitive skills, and to explore the biological mechanisms that support these systems. An understanding of object and numerical cognition in infancy promises to shed light on the structure and acquisition of knowledge more generally, to aid efforts to foster children?s formal and informal learning of science and mathematics, and to contribute to the detection and treatment of children with developmental disabilities such as attention disorders and calculation deficits.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-SSS-C (04))
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Berch, Daniel B
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Harvard University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Powell, Lindsey J; Spelke, Elizabeth S (2018) Human infants' understanding of social imitation: Inferences of affiliation from third party observations. Cognition 170:31-48
Spokes, Annie C; Spelke, Elizabeth S (2017) The cradle of social knowledge: Infants' reasoning about caregiving and affiliation. Cognition 159:102-116
Shusterman, Anna; Li, Peggy (2016) Frames of reference in spatial language acquisition. Cogn Psychol 88:115-61
Spokes, Annie C; Spelke, Elizabeth S (2016) Children's Expectations and Understanding of Kinship as a Social Category. Front Psychol 7:440
Soley, Gaye; Spelke, Elizabeth S (2016) Shared cultural knowledge: Effects of music on young children's social preferences. Cognition 148:106-16
Heiphetz, Larisa; Spelke, Elizabeth S; Young, Liane L (2015) In the name of God: How children and adults judge agents who act for religious versus secular reasons. Cognition 144:134-49
Dillon, Moira R; Spelke, Elizabeth S (2015) Core geometry in perspective. Dev Sci 18:894-908
Hobbs, Kathryn; Spelke, Elizabeth (2015) Goal attributions and instrumental helping at 14 and 24 months of age. Cognition 142:44-59
Huang, Yi; Spelke, Elizabeth S (2015) Core knowledge and the emergence of symbols: The case of maps. J Cogn Dev 16:81-96
Cogsdill, Emily J; Todorov, Alexander T; Spelke, Elizabeth S et al. (2014) Inferring character from faces: a developmental study. Psychol Sci 25:1132-9

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