The Stage IV error in Piaget''s theory of object concept development : An investigation of the role of activity
Piaget defines Stage IV of infants' development of object permanence in terms of an interesting error. Infants can find an object hidden at one place (place A), but after attentively watching the same object being hidden at place B, they search at A (AS error). Piaget says that the error occurs because the infant's limited understanding of space enables him to keep in mind only those places at which he has recently acted. In this explanation, the overt search activity at A plays a critical role in marking A as "the-place-where-objects-are-found." However, activity at A plays no such critical role in determining correct search on the initial A trial. The sight of the object disappearing at A in itself appears to specify A as the place where the object is to be found. Given this fact, one might ask whether the repeated place specifying disappearance and reappearance of the object at A might also not be the effective stimulus leading to the AB error. Forty-eight nine-month-old infants were given a two- position delayed response problem involving a two second delay period. Twelve infants saw a toy covered and uncovered at A twice and then were allowed to search for a toy hidden at B. Twelve had five such observational trials. Another twelve actively searched for a toy hidden at A for two trials prior to their B trials, while still another twelve actively searched at A for five trials. The four groups did not differ significantly; in all four half, or slightly more than half, of the infants made the AH error. Thus the effective stimulus leading to the AS error appears to be observation of the disappearance and reappearance of the object at A rather than overt searching at A. From the point of view of Piaget's theory, this finding points to a need for a clarification of the relation between perceptual activity and instrumental motoric activity.