When Objects Disintegrate: Young Children Do Not Bind Features in Visual Working Memory

Abstract

Remembering object identities requires ‘binding’ visual features together in working memory to form integrated object representations. Research with adults suggests that such feature binding is achieved through space: features at a given spatial location are ‘bound’ to create integrated objects that are anchored to a spatial map of the object layout. Critically, 4-year-old children do not form such spatial maps, whereas 5-year-old children do. This suggests that 4-year-olds might have difficulty binding features together in visual working memory. We tested 4- and 5-year-old children and adults in a change detection task, and found that 4-year-olds showed a binding-specific deficit. Thus, the ability to represent integrated objects in visual working memory is a relatively late developmental achievement. We suggest that before 5 years of age children’s object representations are primarily mediated through visual long-term memory.


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