Why Do Young Children Hide by Closing Their Eyes? Self-Visibility and the Developing Concept of Self
In a series of four experiments, the authors begin by replicating Flavell, Shipstead, and Croft's (1980) finding that many children between 2 and 4 years of age will affirm the invisibility both of themselves and of others?but not of the body?when the person's eyes are closed. The authors also render explicit certain trends in the Flavell et al. work: that invisibility of the eyes is the crucial factor, not lack of a subject's visual experience, and that young children assume that the eyes must be visible if there is visual experience. They show that children of this age often explicitly judge that hiding by covering the eyes is an appropriate thing to do and that this error is not rooted in problems with understanding that seeing leads to knowing. In their final study, they report that a clear majority of children who equate personal invisibility with eye occlusion also judge that people whose eyes are open, but who are not making eye contact with the viewer, are not visible to the viewer. They argue that these data can be explained on the hypothesis that young children's natural tendency to acquire knowledge intersubjectively, by joint attention, leads them to undergo a developmental period in which they believe the self is something that must be mutually experienced for it to be perceived.