What is Object Permanence?

Object Permanence is the ability of a child to retain visual images, even when it is not visible. This is acquired by a child between 8 and 12 months of age, and it is considered to be a milestone in child’s development. However, this should not be confused with child’s recognition memory.

There are usually 6 stages of object permanence, which includes:

  • Reflexes (0 to 4 months)
    During this period, the vision of the child is quite blur, and his attention span is short. However, he starts understanding about objects. Babies of this age start to look at faces and gain knowledge about reacting to various actions.
  • Primary Circular Reactions (0 to 4 months)
    During the initial few days after birth, babies do not know how to follow the movement of any object. However, as they gradually move towards the age of 4 months, they learn this feat. During this period, they also discover that they can move their hands and legs, not in the intended direction though.
  • Secondary Circular Reaction (4 to 8 months)
    When an object is partially visible, babies try to retrieve or at least view the entire object. They acquire the knowledge that if the object is partially visible, the entire object has to be there.
  • Object Visualization (8 to 12 months)
    Babies between the age of 8 to 12 months start visualizing objects that they had seen earlier, and start believing that the object is actually present there. They try to search for object at a place where the object is usually kept.
  • Tertiary Circular Reaction (12 to 18 months)
    The images of the objects are more clearer in this age, and babies are usually successful in finding the object. Also, in this age, babies try to experiment different movements and actions in order to achieve different results.
  • New Inventions (Above 18 months)
    After completion of 18 months, the child will try different combination to search the object, using new methods. He now understands object permanence completely. If something is kept in a particular place in front of the child, he might be easily be able to retrieve it. And if it is not found, he will look around that place, or search in the next probable location.


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