chapter  2
Infants’ Perception of Arrows of Time
ByWilliam J. Friedman
Pages 40

Since the advent of cinematography, adults have seen films of impossible, backward events, events that had never been witnessed by humans before. More than 100 years later, backward film segments of a person diving “out of” a swimming pool or a dropped and shattered pitcher magically reassembling itself remain compelling. Although the experience of such events is often entertaining, if one looks more deeply into the phenomena, one sees that they could provide significant insights into important topics in psychology, including the processes underlying the perception and understanding of normal dynamic events. To detect the anomaly of backward versions of temporally unidirectional events, one must have internal representations of how events typically unfold over time, representations that are engaged by the aberrant displays. Are a person’s reactions based on relatively automatized perceptual representations of the dynamics of the world, on more conceptual knowledge about the properties of different materials, or on some other kind of representation? How and when do these abilities develop? Are people equipped with innate modules that constrain their interpretations of events such as falling or breaking, or are expectations about such events gradually abstracted from repeated encounters with everyday events? The perception of temporal reversals of unidirectional events has received surprisingly little attention from researchers.