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Using examples from the infancy literature discuss how infants may be able to perceive adequately without knowing how to act a

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Using examples from the infancy literature discuss how infants may be able to perceive adequately without knowing how to act appropriately. The development of infant perception has always been a focal point for developmental and cognitive psychologists. The focus of this essay is on the discussion surrounding whether infants are able to perceive adequately without being able to act appropriately. The work of Piaget (1954) is centre to this discussion, he stated that infants only develop object permanence around the age of 8 months. An important debate relating to infant perception is that between the empiricists and the nativists. Empiricists, leading by the example of the philosopher John Locke believe that the newborn is a "tabula rasa" (Smith, Cowie & Blades (2003) p320) on which life experiences are recorded. The nativists claim that many perceptual abilities are present at birth; philosophers like Descartes and Kant argued that infants have an innate capability to perceive space. Over recent years there have been huge research advances as a result of new technology; developmental psychologists now have access to video filming and computer controlled stimuli. Not only does this result in a higher quantity of research produced but as a result of the new methods available experiments predominantly have much greater objectivity and validity than before. This new technology has resulted in several new techniques particularly when looking at infants' perception of objects. The spontaneous preferences technique is a main example as much of the evidence into infant perception has been obtained through this technique. ...read more.


Slater, Johnson, Brown and Badenoch (1996) found support for this experiment. However Slater et al. (1990) concluded that unlike 4 month olds, newborns do not perceive object unity, they are limited to what is actually in view and Johnson & Aslin (1995) found that 2 month olds acted in the same way as 4 month olds. This research supports the empiricist view that there is a gradual emergence of object unity in the early months. There has been a huge amount of research into infants' perception of objects including experiments into subjective contours, object unity, shape perception and size perception. This research has resulted in the emergence of contrasting views and has attracted both positive and negative attention. It seems that the general conclusion is that infants are born with an innate capability to perceive objects, however this is limited and during the first 4 months infants develop very quickly and are able to fill in the gaps in perception in order to perceive object unity and subjective contours. Another main area of study into infant perception is that of perception of people. In order for infants to form attachments it is paramount that they are able to distinguish between strangers and parents. Fantz (1961) conducted a study in which he presented infants with three examples of schematic stimuli. The first face presented had all its features in the right place, the second had all its features jumbled up and the third had the same stimulus brightness but had no specific features. ...read more.


However, evidence has shown that even newborns are capable of imitating facial and manual gesture. Meltzoff and Moore (1977) were the first ones to report well-controlled studies of imitation in early infancy. The research into imitation provides strong evidence to support the nativist view as in order to imitate a facial gesture, infants have to be able to understand the method involved in making a particular gesture and match this to their own facial gestures. However, these findings were seen as highly controversial and still are. Investigating imitation is difficult as you are faced with two problems: you must ensure that the actions are simple enough for an infant to imitate but at the same time the gestures should not be those that can be confused with the gestures infants make spontaneously. The research discussed in this essay provides evidence to suggest that many perceptual abilities are present in infants from birth or emerge very shortly afterwards. This suggests that many aspects of perception develop on innate, maturational factors rather than on learning from the environment. A main example of this would be face recognition; newborns become familiar with their mother's face within a few hours of birth. The infant ability to perceive depth and distance and to apply visual constancies has also been investigated. It is not as clear in these areas whether the evidence provides support for the nativist or empiricist argument. The methodological difficulties involved in studying infants makes it difficult to form firm conclusions, however, it seems likely that babies need to interact with the environment at some level in order for their perceptual abilities to develop normally and effectively. ...read more.

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