In two experiments, we investigated the development of representational flexibility in visual recognition memory during infancy using the Visual Paired Comparison (VPC) task. In Experiment 1, 6- and 9-month-old infants exhibited recognition when familiarization and test occurred in the same room, but showed no evidence of recognition when familiarization and test occurred in different rooms. In contrast, 12- and 18-month-old infants exhibited recognition irrespective of testing room. Thus, flexibility across a change of room was observed at a younger age than flexibility across a change of background that has previously been seen with the VPC procedure (Robinson & Pascalis, 2004). To determine if limitations in representational flexibility across a change of background could be overcome by experiences during encoding, in Experiment 2, 6-, 9-, 12- and 18-month-old infants were familiarized with a picture on multiple backgrounds. At all ages, infants showed recognition across a change in background at test. These findings indicate that dissociating an item from its context during encoding may be an important factor in understanding the representational flexibility of visual recognition memory in infancy. Developmental changes in representational flexibility are likely driven by changes in the functional maturity of the hippocampal formation, and experience.
Jones, E., Pascalis, O., Eacott, M. & Herbert, J. S. (2011). Visual recognition memory across contexts. Developmental Science, 14 (1), 136-147.