Research Team


Principal Investigators
Martin Jüttner (Aston University, Birmingham, UK)
Jules Davidoff (Goldsmiths College, London, UK)

Elley Wakui (now: University of East London, UK)
Dean Petters (now: University of Birmingham, UK)


John Hummel (University of Illinois, USA)
Ingo Rentschler (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany)

Research Assistants
Surinder Kaur
Ania Maxwell
Anisa Ali


This project has been supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC, grant RES-062-0167, 2006 - 2010) and by the Heidehof Stiftung (grant 50302.01/4.10, 2011 - 2012).



About the project

Background and aim 

The use of pictures in education often is based on the maxim “the more the better”. However, there is more than one way to understand the depiction of an object. One possibility is to make use of characteristic parts: for example, to spot a cow because of the particular shape of a cow’s head. Another option would be to consider the overall shape provided by the configuration of the object parts - in the example: the particular spatial arrangement and proportions of a cow’s head, body, legs and tail relative to each other.

Adults can use both of these ways - individual parts and the part configuration - for object recognition purposes. However, little is known about the development of these two routes for understanding pictorial information - in particular in school-age children. The current project aims to shed some light onto this process.


Participating schools

Our project has been one of the most comprehensive investigations so far into the development of object recognition skills during adolescence. In total more than 900 school-children aged 7 to 16 have been assessed. We thank pupils and staff of the following schools for their participation and support:

  • Alvechurch CE Middle School, Alvechurch
  • Aston Manor School, Birmingham
  • Beaconside Primary School, Birmingham
  • Crown Meadow First School, Alvechurch
  • Elmfield Rudolf Steiner School, Stourbridge
  • Fairway Primary School, Birmingham
  • Hasbury CE Primary School, Halesowen

  • Highfields Primary School, Rowley Regis
  • Oak Hill First School, Redditch
  • Rowley Hall Primary School, Rowley Regis
  • St Augustine’s Catholic High School, Redditch
  • St Stephens CE First School, Redditch
  • Westminster Primary School, Birmingham
  • Woodrush Community High School, Birmingham

What this research is good for

Developmental differences in object recognition would have implications for the use and design of educational software because in most computer applications so much depends on the speedy apprehension of visual displays. They would also have implications for educational practice. For example, a child’s approach to creative design and architecture has been classified as either “partist” or “wholist”. However, this distinction has not been related to how a child approaches the recognition of real-world objects. Our findings would necessarily inform issues of individual differences and could have implications for the better assessment and prediction of those children best suited for careers in those fields.

Results - some key findings

The data collection in our project has only just been completed and the analysis is still on-going. Nonetheless, some interesting results have already been established and published (Jüttner et al., 2013; Wakui et al., 2013, see publication list below):

  • Object recognition skills continue to develop at least until 12 years of age - considerably longer than has been previously claimed.
  • The late consolidation of recognition skills appears to affect more the processing of part relations rather than the processing of individual parts. This finding is surprising because part-relational changes are much easier to spot than manipulations of individual parts.
  • The late consolidation of part-relational processing is domain independent. It does not just apply to well-established domains (for example, animals) that are part of our general world knowledge. Rather we also observe it for categories of newly learned objects, that is, in case of “specialist” knowledge. Again this highlights the potential relevance of our results for education.

Some publications - having arisen from or being relevant for the project

  • Jüttner, M., Wakui, E., Petters, D. & Davidoff, J. (2016). Developmental commonalities between object and face recognition in adolescence. Frontiers in Psychology 7: 385. http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00385/full  [abstract]
  • Jüttner, M., Petters, D., Wakui, E. & Davidoff, J. (2014). Late development of metric part-relational processing in object recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 40, 1718-1734. [abstract] [pdf]
  • Wakui, E., Jüttner, M., Petters, D., Kaur, S., Hummel, J.E. & Davidoff, J. (2013). Earlier development of analytical than holistic object recognition in adolescence. PLoS ONE 8(4): e61041. http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0061041  [abstract].
  • Jüttner, M., Wakui, E., Petters, D., Kaur, S. & Davidoff, J. (2013). Developmental trajectories of part-based and configural object recognition in adolescence. Developmental Psychology 49, 161-176. [abstract] [pdf]
  • Jüttner, M., Müller, A. & Rentschler, I. (2006) A developmental dissociation of view-dependent and view-invariant object recognition in adolescence. Behavioural Brain Research 175, 420-424. [abstract] [pdf] 
  • Rentschler, I., Jüttner, M., Osman, E., Müller, A. & Caelli, T. (2004) Development of configural 3D object recognition. Behavioural Brain Research 149, 107-111. [abstract] [pdf] 
  • Davidoff, J., & Roberson, D. (2002). Development of animal recognition: A difference between parts and wholes. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 81, 217-234.
Results have also been presented at thirteen national and international conferences, including meetings of the BPS, EPS, ECVP, ESCOP, VSS and the Psychonomic Society.
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