Occlusion is Hard: Comparing predictive reaching for visible and hidden objects in infants and adults

Susan Hespos*, Gustaf Gredebäck, Claes von Hofsten, Elizabeth S. Spelke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Infants can anticipate the future location of a moving object and execute a predictive reach to intercept the object. When a moving object is temporarily hidden by darkness or occlusion, 6-month-old infants' reaching is perturbed, but performance on darkness trials is significantly better than occlusion trials. How does this reaching behavior change over development? Experiment 1 tested predictive reaching of 6- and 9-month-old infants. While there was an increase in the overall number of reaches with increasing age, there were significantly fewer predictive reaches during the occlusion compared to visible trials and no age-related changes in this pattern. The decrease in performance found in Experiment 1 is likely to apply not only to the object representations formed by infants but also those formed by adults. In Experiment 2 we tested adults with a similar reaching task. Like infants, the adults were most accurate when the target was continuously visible and performance in darkness trials was significantly better than occlusion trials, providing evidence that there is something specific about occlusion that makes it more difficult than merely lack of visibility. Together, these findings suggest that infants' and adults' capacities to represent objects have similar signatures throughout development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1483-1502
Number of pages20
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Infancy
  • Occlusion
  • Reaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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