Abstractvon Hofsten, C., Kochukhova, O., & Rosander, K. (2007) Predictive Tracking over Occlusion by 4-Month-Old Infants. Developmental science, 10, 625-640.
Two experiments investigated how 16-20-week-old infants visually tracked an object that oscillated on a horizontal trajectory with a centrally placed occluder. To determine the principles underlying infants' tendency to shift gaze to the exiting side before the object arrives, occluder width, oscillation frequency, and motion amplitude were manipulated resulting in occlusion durations between 0.20 and 1.66 s. Through these manipulations, we were able to distinguish between several possible modes of behavior underlying 'predictive' actions at occluders. Four such modes were tested. First, if passage-of-time determines when saccades are made, the tendency to shift gaze over the occluder is expected to be a function of time since disappearance. Second, if visual salience of the exiting occluder edge determines when saccades are made, occluder width would determine the pre-reappearance gaze shifts but not oscillation frequency, amplitude, or velocity. Third, if memory of the duration of the previous occlusion determines when the subjects shift gaze over the occluder, it is expected that the gaze will shift after the same latency at the next occlusion irrespective of whether occlusion duration is changed or not. Finally, if infants base their pre-reappearance gaze shifts on their ability to represent object motion (cognitive mode), it is expected that the latency of the gaze shifts over the occluder is scaled to occlusion duration. Eye and head movements as well as object motion were measured at 240 Hz. In 49% of the passages, the infants shifted gaze to the opposite side of the occluder before the object arrived there. The tendency to make such gaze shifts could not be explained by the passage of time since disappearance. Neither could it be fully explained in terms of visual information present during occlusion, i.e. occluder width. On the contrary, it was found that the latency of the pre-reappearance gaze shifts was determined by the time of object reappearance and that it was a function of all three factors manipulated. The results suggest that object velocity is represented during occlusion and that infants track the object behind the occluder in their 'mind's eye'.