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Chapter 4: Physical Development: Body, Brain, and Perception. Perceptual Development. By Kati Tumaneng (for Drs. Cook & Cook). Perceptual Development. Nervous system relatively immature at birth.

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Chapter 4 physical development body brain and perception l.jpg

Chapter 4: Physical Development: Body, Brain, and Perception

Perceptual Development

By Kati Tumaneng

(for Drs. Cook & Cook)


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Perceptual Development

  • Nervous system relatively immature at birth.

  • Despite this, even young infants are more capable than previously thought at organizing and using sensory information meaningfully.


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Robert Fantz and Visual Preferences

  • Experiments to determine if form perception was innate or learned.

    • Baby chicks pecked at some shapes more than others.

    • Chimpanzees fixated on some patterns longer than others.


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Robert Fantz and Visual Preferences

  • Preferential-looking technique – Used to test infants visual perception. If infants consistently look longer at some patterns than others, researchers infer they can see a difference between the two patterns.

  • Newborns only 2-5 days old preferred a drawing of a face over a bull’s eye or newsprint, but preferred these detailed prints over colored discs.

    Parents Guide to Visual Development: http://www.children-special-needs.org/parenting/preschool/visual_child_development.html




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Robert Fantz and Visual Preferences

  • Human Faces and Other Preferences

    • Moving stimuli

    • Outer contours or edges

    • Sharp color contrasts

    • Patterns with some detail or complexity

    • Symmetrical patterns

    • Curved patterns

    • Patterns that resemble the human face


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Face Stimuli

Researchers showed these patterns one at a time to newborns who were only a few minutes old. Although they had yet to see their first real face, the newborns preferred to look at the pattern that most resembled the arrangement of the human face.


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Infant Visual Fixation of Facial Patterns

Tracking their eye movements, you can see that 1-month-old infants spend most of their time looking at external features of the face – mostly the chin and outer hairline. By 2 months, infants are now looking more at the internal features, especially the eyes and mouth.


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Habituation-Dishabituation Research

  • Habituation – The tendency of infants to reduce their response to stimuli that they are presented repeatedly.

  • Dishabituation – The recovery or increase in infant’s response when a familiar stimulus is replaced by one that is novel.

  • Habituation-dishabituation technique – Used to test infants perception. Infants are shown a stimulus repeatedly until they respond less (habituate) to it. Then a new stimulus in presented.

  • Degree of dishabituation is moderately accurate predictor of intelligence for ages 1-8.


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Habituation-Dishabituation Example

This graph shows hypothetical data from work with a 4-month-old infant using the habituation–dishabituation technique. The infant shows habituation by looking less and less at a red circle that is presented repeatedly—but looking time increases (dishabituation) when novel forms or colors are presented.


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Vision: Acuity, Color, and Depth

  • How Clear is Their Sight? Measuring Infant Visual Acuity

    • Visual Acuity – Ability to see fine detail

    • Fantz “striped patterns”

    • Acuity poor in first months but sufficient for infant’s tasks

    • Reaches 20/20 by 6-12 months


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Patterns used to test visual acuity in infants

Researchers use the preferential-looking technique to determine which set of stripes infants differentiate from the plain gray square.


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Vision: Acuity, Color, and Depth

  • How Colorful is Their Sight? Color Vision in Infancy

    • Preference for green, yellow, or red over grey

    • Distinguish red from white but not blue, green, or yellow from white

    • Color vision relatively mature by 6 months


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Vision: Acuity, Color, and Depth

  • How Deep is that Drop? Early Depth Perception

    • Infants as young as two months can perceive depth on visual cliff, better developed by age of crawling

    • Cues indicating depth

      • Pictorial Cues

      • Motion Parallax

      • Binocular Disparity



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Auditory Perception

  • Auditory system functional several weeks before birth.

  • By 6 months, capable of responding to broad range of sounds.

  • Even so, still not completely mature.

Facts on Infant Hearing Loss: http://ndaap.org/hearing.htm#NORMAL%20AUDITORY%20DEVELOPMENT


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Auditory Perception

  • Child-Directed Speech – Special singsong way that adults and older children talk to infants, speaking slowly, clearly, and with exaggerated intonation.

  • Infants and young children may be more sensitive than adults to higher frequencies of sound.

  • Infants able to locate sounds in their environment by turning their head or eyes in the direction of the sound source.

  • Prefer voice of own mother to voices of unfamiliar females; not same for father’s voice.


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Perception of Smell and Taste

  • Babies can react to certain odors in manner similar to adults.

  • Breast-fed newborns can recognize smell of mother.

  • Can also show taste preferences immediately after birth.



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Intermodal Perception

  • The process of combining or integrating information across sensory modalities.

  • Infants capable of detecting features that are invariant across sensory modalities without significant learning.

  • Strength of intermodal perception also predictor of later cognitive functioning.

    Newborn’s Sensory System info: http://howchildrenlearn.homestead.com/indexhtml3.html


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  • Looking Chamber on Slide 5: from Cook, J. L., & Cook, G. (2005). Child development: Principles and perspectives (1st ed.) (p. 156). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  • Chart on Slide 6: from Cook, J. L., & Cook, G. (2005). Child development: Principles and perspectives (1st ed.) (p. 157). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  • Face Stimuli on Slide 8: from Cook, J. L., & Cook, G. (2005). Child development: Principles and perspectives (1st ed.) (p. 158). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  • Infant Fixation Pattern on Slide 9: from Cook, J. L., & Cook, G. (2005). Child development: Principles and perspectives (1st ed.) (p. 159). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  • Chart on Slide 11: from Cook, J. L., & Cook, G. (2005). Child development: Principles and perspectives (1st ed.) (p. 160). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.


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  • Patterns on Slide 13: from Cook, J. L., & Cook, G. (2005). (2005). Child development: Principles and perspectives (1st ed.) (p. 161). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  • Picture on Slide 16: from Cook, J. L., & Cook, G. (2005). Child development: Principles and perspectives (1st ed.) (p. 162). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  • Picture on Slide 17: from Cook, J. L., & Cook, G. (2005). Child development: Principles and perspectives (1st ed.) (p. 163). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  • Picture on Slide 20: from Cook, J. L., & Cook, G. (2005). Child development: Principles and perspectives (1st ed.) (p. 164). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  • All other images retrieved from Microsoft PowerPoint Clip Art.


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