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Child Development Research
Volume 2016, Article ID 3102481, 11 pages
Research Article

Infants Actively Construct and Update Their Representations of Physical Events: Evidence from Change Detection by 12-Month-Olds

University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, USA

Received 30 April 2016; Revised 30 September 2016; Accepted 20 October 2016

Academic Editor: Gedeon Deak

Copyright © 2016 Su-hua Wang and Elizabeth J. Goldman. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The present research investigates the effects of top-down information on 12-month-olds’ representations of physical events, focusing on their ability to detect an object change across different events. Infants this age typically fail to detect height changes in events with tubes even though they successfully do so in events with covers. In Experiment  1, infants who saw a tube event in which objects did not interact successfully detected a change in an object’s height, suggesting that object interaction affects infants’ categorization of physical events. Experiments 2 and 3 examined the fine-grained process of event representation. In Experiment  2, infants detected the change in the tube event if they were led by pretest exposure to believe that the event was conducted with a cover. In Experiment  3, infants who initially believed so updated their representation if shown a tube before object interaction occurred (but not after). Together, these findings provide new evidence that infants, like older children and adults, actively construct physical events. Whether they notice a change depends on their existing knowledge and the current representation of the event.