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19-12-2019 | Original Article Open Access

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

Psychological Research
Eva Rafetseder, Sarah Schuster, Stefan Hawelka, Martin Doherty, Britt Anderson, James Danckert, Elisabeth Stöttinger
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00426-019-01278-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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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.

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