Object complexity modulates the association between action and perception in childhood

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Journal of Experimental Child Psychology



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© 2018 Elsevier Inc. Vision for action and vision for perception both rely on shape representations derived within the visual system. Whether the same psychological and neural mechanisms underlie both forms of behavior remains hotly contested, and whether this arrangement is equivalent in adults and children is controversial as well. To address these outstanding questions, we used an established psychophysical heuristic, Weber's law, which, in adults, has typically been observed for perceptual judgment tasks but not for actions such as grasping. We examined whether this perception–action dissociation in Weber's law was present in childhood as it is in adulthood and whether it was modulated by stimulus complexity. Two major results emerged. First, although adults evinced visuomotor behavior that violated Weber's law, young children (4.5–6.5 years) adhered to Weber's law when they grasped complex objects (“Efron” blocks), which varied along both the graspable and non-graspable dimensions to maintain a constant surface area, but not when they grasped simple objects, which varied only along the graspable dimension. Second, adherence to Weber's law was found across all ages in the context of a perceptual task. Together, these findings suggest that, in early childhood, visuomotor representations are modulated by perceptual representations, particularly when a refined description of object shape is needed.


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