perceptual development

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infant studies of perceptual development

New born infants have very limited ability to see/ make sense of the world around them.

Neonates been studied in order to establish whether or not perceptual abilities are innate or whether they develop from exposure to the environment

Problems with carrying out neonate research

Some abilities not present at birth but emerge during first few weeks- makes it difficult to disentangle the effects of maturation of the visual system from the effects of experience

  • Babies produce a limited range of observable behaviours  - a baby may not be able to demonstrate of its abilities
  • Babies cannot understand instructions/ cannot answer verbal questions
  • Ethical difficulties   
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a variety of techniques have been used to study ne

  • Eye movement monitoring
  • Heart/ breathing rate
  • Preferential looking
  • Sucking rate  
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Depth/ distance perception

Gibson/ Walk investigated perception in babies using their visual cliff apparatus

Babies aged between 6-14 months would not crewel over the perceived drop despite encouragement  


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Gibson and Walk concluded that

Depth perception was innate

However some psychologists have disagreed with this conclusion: at 6-14 mounths babies may have learnt depth perception due to the experience of being carried

An alternative view is that the babies may not have liked their mothers

There are ethical issues with this study; such as this study may of scared the baby, this could make the baby be scared of heights, and parents need to give connect   

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another probelm of Gibson/ Walks study

Children had several mouths to learnt perception Repeated the experiment using different species on the visual cliff which could walk from birth  New born lambs/ goat kids did not walk on the deep side- supporting the nature augment  

Animal studies cannot be generalised to humans – humans less need for them to be born with depth perception  

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Campos et al 1970

Compared hart rates of 2 mounts old babies placed on the shallow/ deep side if the cliff

Hart rates decreased slightly the deep side

Suggest that is because the deep side has caught their interest

The results suggest that babies could distinguish between the two sides- supports the augment that perception is INNATE

May be that depth perception is innate but recognising the danger is learned though experience- changes in hart rate do demonstrate the problems what babies can see 

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Found very young infants had awareness of depth perception by showing a film of an object which seemed to be moving towards them on a collision course

Babies showed avoidance behaviour by flinching/ blinking which showed that they could tell when the object was close enough to them supporting the nature augment  

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visual constancies

Nearly all adults display size/shape constancy

An object is perceived as the same size regardless of its distance/ objects is seem to have the same shape regardless of its orientation

Babies are studied in order to determine whether these consistencies are innate (NATURE) or whether these continence’s are learned (NURTURE)  

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Kaye and Bower DUMMIES

They found babies controlled their sucking to keep the image of the dummy in their mouth on the screen

Suggest that they are capable of sensing the shape of the dummy in their mouth and recognising that it is the same shape as the shape on the screen- likely to be an INNATE ability  

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Slater, Mattok and brown size consistency in infan

New-borns showed either a small or large cube over a number of trials so that they were used to it.

After woods two cubes were presented

A new cube or

A larger cube but further away so that the image on the retina would be the same size

All new-borns looked at the new cube- habituated the old one

Because they could distinguish between the two cubes having the same size retinal image that had least had some element of size consistency 

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Bower carried out a similar study where an infant rewarded for looking at a particular shape

When presented with the same shape but furher away or a bigger shape but further which would project the same size retinal image


Shows that they had size constancy- because they recognised the shape even though it was further away   and looked smaller

However it is probable that development of size consistency also depends on maturation and the infants experience   (interactionist approach- nature v nurture,) 

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