Infants’ sensitivity to shape changes in 2D visual forms

Moira R. Dillon, Véronique Izard, Elizabeth S. Spelke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research in developmental cognitive science reveals that human infants perceive shape changes in 2D visual forms that are repeatedly presented over long durations. Nevertheless, infants’ sensitivity to shape under the brief conditions of natural viewing has been little studied. Three experiments tested for this sensitivity by presenting 128 seven-month-old infants with shapes for the briefer durations under which they might see them in dynamic scenes. The experiments probed infants’ sensitivity to two fundamental geometric properties of scale- and orientation-invariant shape: relative length and angle. Infants detected shape changes in closed figures, which presented changes in both geometric properties. Infants also detected shape changes in open figures differing in angle when figures were presented at limited orientations. In contrast, when open figures were presented at unlimited orientations, infants detected changes in relative length but not in angle. The present research therefore suggests that, as infants look around at the cluttered and changing visual world, relative length is the primary geometric property by which they perceive scale- and orientation-invariant shape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)618-639
Number of pages22
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • angle
  • change detection
  • invariance
  • length
  • shape perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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