Review the evidence that infants are born with visual preferences and consider how such preferences can equip them to process stimuli that they encounter in the world.

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Review the evidence that infants are born with visual preferences and consider how such preferences can equip them to process stimuli that they encounter in the world.  

Research on infant perception and cognition has been frequently discussed and analysed by developmental psychologists leading to spectacular advances in knowledge and appreciation of infants and their abilities. Whether it’s the parents questioning the infants ability to observe or the philosophical theories regarding ideas of nativism or empiricism as a basis for the newborns entry in to our world, the accepted consensus acquiesces that from birth infants contain ranges of concepts and abstract forms of knowledge allowing them to make sense of what they experience, with opposing ideas pertaining to the actual knowledge possessed. Many methods have been utilized in assessing infant’s abilities, for instance anatomical or neurological data but more recently behavioural evidence has been employed examining infant reaction when exposed to visual experiences and determining whether there exists a preference on certain objects by infants. I will examine the different case studies utilized and then attempt to explain how this enables infants to process stimuli encountered in the world.

In order to actually observe images diverse actions are required until the actual picture appears. When our lens fixates on an object an image is cast on to the retina which possesses two receptors- cones and rods. Cones are sensitive to fine detail and colour, whereas rods concentrate on black and white light. Electro-chemical signals are then sent via optic nerves to the lateral geniculate bodies that compares input from the different nerve fibres and also responds to the differences of light that are normally surrounding the centre as opposed to the peripheral areas. Even though processing has taken place earlier on in the retina, but the LGN continues to enhance detail before it projects a picture on to the visual cortex which compares inputs from the different receptive fields covered by the LGN, with some cells contrasting light and dark boundaries, some cells sensitive to movement and some to the size and colour of the stimuli.

At birth a baby’s eye is “nearly mature with the image formed on the retina containing as much colour and clarity as an adult eye” (Psychological Development and Early Childhood p.96 ), but their ability to focus the eye on objects at different distances are inefficient. One reason cited is due to the insensitivity of the retina to fine detail; as the cones which in an adults eyes have a high density within the fovea haven’t migrated to their rightful place yet by an infant, causing the acuity and colour perception to be lacking. Another immaturity by a baby is the lack of myelin coating that normally speeds up and insulates nerve impulses, as signals are sent along the optic nerve, by infants this is absent, hindering fast movement along the nerve, causing a likely diffusion by the time it reaches the end.  As the signals reach the LGN an infant is further restricted as the cells haven’t matured sufficiently to process the data, restricting clarity of vision again. In the visual cortex too, the neurons are still poorly interconnected and also lacking myelin coating. Additionally, a person has cells in his brain called binocular cells, they receive input from both eyes and are responsible for the development of depth perception. Newborn babies do not have the full ability to see in three dimensions until they are a few month.

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Using neurological and anatomical data though doesn’t create a clear picture in assessing the constraints involved, as this only inform us of the difficulty entailed but not the effect. Rather scientists have been examining behaviour of infants how they react to visual experiences. This enables a deeper understanding of restrictions imposed as we can actually observe using different methods what they can actually do, in contrast to other tests that just give us a theoretical picture. By examining behaviour much more is being examined too, like the systems that control motor activity such as eye movements. In addition, since our ...

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