Stages in the development of intentional search by young infants

Peter Willatts (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Piaget maintained that intentional search is preceded by a phase of transitional search in which infants remove covers but do not show intention to find the hidden object. If there is such a transitional phase, reports of search by infants as young as 5 mo are difficult to evaluate because the type of search has not been identified. Two experiments examined changes in search behavior in 38 infants at age 6, 7, and 8 mo. Exp I revealed that the majority of Ss displayed transitional search before intentional search. Exp II showed that Ss' awareness of the hidden object developed gradually; early transitional search demonstrated minimal awareness, but later transitional search revealed knowledge of the hidden object. An account of search development is given that is in close agreement with Piaget's, and caution is advised in the interpretation of studies with young infants that fail to distinguish different types of search. (16 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-396
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1984


  • developmental stages of intentional search
  • infants tested at 6-8 mo of age

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Demography
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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