Abstract rule learning for visual sequences in 8- and 11-month-olds

Scott P. Johnson, Keith J. Fernandes, Michael C. Frank, Natasha Kirkham, Gary Marcus, Hugh Rabagliati, Jonathan A. Slemmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The experiments reported here investigated the development of a fundamental component of cognition: to recognize and generalize abstract relations. Infants were presented with simple rule-governed patterned sequences of visual shapes (ABB, AAB, and ABA) that could be discriminated from differences in the position of the repeated element (late, early, or nonadjacent, respectively). Eight-month-olds were found to distinguish patterns on the basis of the repetition, but appeared insensitive to its position in the sequence; 11-month-olds distinguished patterns over the position of the repetition, but appeared insensitive to the nonadjacent repetition. These results suggest that abstract pattern detection may develop incrementally in a process of constructing complex relations from more primitive components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-18
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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