Animal Cognition

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 817–833 | Cite as

The perceptual origins of the abstract same/different concept in human infants

  • Caspar AddymanEmail author
  • Denis Mareschal
Original Paper


Very few experiments have studied the two item same/different relation in young human infants. This contrasts with an extensive animal literature. We tested young infants with two novel tasks designed specifically to provide convergent comparative measures. Each infant completed both tasks allowing an assessment of their understanding of the abstract concept rather than task-specific abilities. In a looking time task with photographic stimuli, we found that 8-month-olds are sensitive to the relation but 4-month-olds are not. The second task used an anticipatory eye movement paradigm with simple geometric stimuli. On each trial, two colored shapes appear and moved upwards behind an occluder. They reappeared on either the upper left or right depending on the relation between them. Infants at both ages learned and generalized the dependency but only for the different relation. These results show that human infants can learn the same/different concept but that, in strong continuity with animal results, their abilities are firmly grounded in perception.


Same/different Human infants Concept learning 



We wish to thank Dick Aslin for useful discussion of the AEM paradigm, Edward Longhurst for support using the Exbuilder software and Fani Deligianni for assistance with the implementation. We thank several anonymous reviewers for the helpful comments on early draft of this paper and we particularly acknowledge the suggestion from Bob McMurray of using bootstrap methods. This research was approved by the research ethics committee of the Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London and complied with the current laws of Great Britain, where it was carried out. Support for this research comes from European Commission Framework 6 NEST contracts 029088 and 516542. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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