Children struggle beyond preschool-age in a continuous version of the ambiguous figures task

Eva Rafetseder, Sarah Schuster, Stefan Hawelka, Martin Doherty, Britt Anderson, James Danckert, Elisabeth Stöttinger

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Children until the age of five are only able to reverse an ambiguous figure when they are informed about the second interpretation. In two experiments, we examined whether children’s difficulties would extend to a continuous version of the ambiguous figures task. Children (Experiment 1: 66 3- to 5-year olds; Experiment 2: 54 4- to 9-year olds) and adult controls saw line drawings of animals gradually morph—through well-known ambiguous figures—into other animals. Results show a relatively late developing ability to recognize the target animal, with difficulties extending beyond preschool-age. This delay can neither be explained with improvements in theory of mind, inhibitory control, nor individual differences in eye movements. Even the best achieving children only started to approach adult level performance at the age of 9, suggesting a fundamentally different processing style in children and adults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)828–841
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological Research
Early online date19 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

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