Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Cordelia Robinson

Second Advisor

Shelton Hendricks

Third Advisor

Joseph C. LaVoie


The use of function for concept formation in 5 and 8 month old infants was studied in an experiment employing a conceptual adaptation of the standard habituation paradigm. A total of 64 male and female infants were shown videoptaped presentations which involved changes in form and functional attributes of selected stimuli. The stimuli consisted of striped figures which could vary in form (shmoo-shaped or H-shaped) and function (side-to-side movements or up-down movements). During habituation, all infants were shown multiexemplars of a specific figure performing a single movement pattern; the figures varied only in color. During test trials, the infants were shown (1) a change only in form, (2) a change only in movement, (3) a change in movement contrasted with a change in form, or (4) a change in movement contrasted with a combined movement/form change. Total visual fixation times to the various changes in stimuli presented during test trials were compared. The results provide partial, but not conclusive, support for the hypothesis that function serves as the central core for concept acquisition in infancy at both 5 and 8 months of age. The results do not, however, point to a developmental age trend towards either increased or decreased use of functional attributes for concept acquisition.

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