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Cognition and Development – Beyond Piaget

2. Classic Study: Baillargeon’s Drawbridge Study

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In this lecture, we look at a classic violation-of-expectation study by Baillargeon, focusing in particular on: (i) its recognition as the Rotating Drawbridge Study (1985); (ii) the study’s experimental procedure in which 5 month-old infants were habituated to an event which involved a drawbridge rotating through a 180° angle; (iii) the next stage, when those infants were presented with a possible event, in which the drawbridge was stopped by a block placed behind it, and an impossible event, in which the drawbridge seemingly continued to move through the space occupied by the block; (iv) measurement of the infants’ looking time throughout this; (v) findings that the impossible event captured the infants’ attention for longer than the possible event; (vi) Baillargeon’s conclusions from these findings and how they call into question Piaget’s theory that very young infants do not yet have a conception of object permanence.


In this course, Dr Richard O’Connor (University of Hull) explores different ideas within the field of cognitive development that go beyond the work of Jean Piaget. In the first lecture, we introduce the violation-of-expectation looking time method as a research technique which has revolutionised our understanding of infant cognition since the 1980s. In the second lecture, we look at the classic violation-of-expectation study by Baillargeon et al. (1985). In the third lecture, we evaluation this research. Next, we think about an alternative set of ideas to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development which focuses on the role of social interactions and culture. In the fifth lecture, we look at the socio-cultural theory of cognitive development proposed by Piaget’s contemporary Lev Vygotsky, focusing on the distinction between ‘elementary’ and ‘higher’ mental functions. In the sixth and final lecture, we think about some key concepts such as the ‘zone of proximal development’.


Dr Richard O’Connor is a cognitive developmental psychology in the Faculty of Health Sciences and School of Psychology and Social Work at the University of Hull. Dr O’Connor’s research interests include theory of mind and word learning. Some of Dr O’Connor’s recent publications include Autistic Adults Show Similar Performance and Sensitivity to Social Cues on a Visual Perspective Taking Task as Non-autistic Adults (In Press) and Stroop interference is a composite phenomenon: Evidence from distinct developmental trajectories of its components (2020).

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APA style

O'Connor, R. (2019, December 16). Cognition and Development – Beyond Piaget - Classic Study: Baillargeon’s Drawbridge Study [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

O'Connor, R. "Cognition and Development – Beyond Piaget – Classic Study: Baillargeon’s Drawbridge Study." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 16 Dec 2019,

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