Sex differences during visual scanning of occlusion events in infants.
Additional Document Info
A growing number of sex differences in infancy have been reported. One task on which they have been observed reliably is the event-mapping task. In event mapping, infants view an occlusion event involving 1 or 2 objects, the occluder is removed, and then infants see 1 object. Typically, boys are more likely than girls to detect an inconsistency between a 2-object occlusion event and a 1-object display. The current research investigated underlying reasons for this sex difference. Three eye-tracking experiments were conducted with infants at 9 and 4 months (mean age). Infants saw a ball-box or ball-ball occlusion event followed by a 1-ball display; visual scanning of the occlusion event and the 1-ball display was recorded. Older boys were more likely than older girls to visually track the objects through occlusion and more likely to detect an inconsistency between the ball-box event and the 1-ball display. In addition, tracking objects through occlusion was related to infants' scanning of the 1-ball display. Both younger boys and girls failed to track the objects through occlusion and to detect an inconsistency between the ball-box event and the 1-ball display. These results suggest that infants' capacity to track objects through occlusion facilitates extraction of the structure of the initial event (i.e., the number of distinct objects involved) that infants can map onto the final display and that sex differences in the capacity emerge between 4 and 9 months. Possible explanations for how the structure of an occlusion event is extracted and mapped are considered.