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Gibson And Walk (1960). The Visual Cliff. Context. Nativist view- innate ability to perceive the world. Opposed to learning through experience. Lashley and Russell (1934)- rats reared in dark could still jump correct distance to platform.

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gibson and walk 1960

Gibson And Walk (1960)

The Visual Cliff

  • Nativist view- innate ability to perceive the world. Opposed to learning through experience.
  • Lashley and Russell (1934)- rats reared in dark could still jump correct distance to platform.
    • Criticism: Invalid- rats could have learnt to judge distance through training.
  • Investigate whether depth perception is innate or learned.
  • Will mobile infants avoid a visual drop?
procedure sample
Procedure: Sample
  • 36 human infants aged 6-14 months and their mothers.
    • Must be mobile- able to crawl.
  • Followed by trials with animal young, e.g chicks, kids, lambs, rats, puppies and kittens.
  • Another trial used only kids (goats) and lambs because they could be tested within 24 hrs of birth.
    • No opportunity to learn to perceive depth.
procedure equipment
Procedure: Equipment
  • The Visual Cliff
    • Surface usually in a check pattern (to show clear depth cues) and a drop covered by a glass floor.
      • The glass floor controls for other non-visual cues.
procedure method
Procedure- Method
  • Child is placed in centre of visual cliff.
  • Mother beckons child towards her from both sides (shallow and visual cliff) to test if the infant is less inclined to cross a visual cliff.
  • Animal trials were used to reduce the chance of pre-crawl learning.
    • Animals were placed in the centre and the direction in which they moved was tested (towards or away from the visual cliff)
    • Kids and lambs were then placed on a surface, which could be lowered to create a visual cliff, to test their response to visual cues suggesting the floor was moving further away.
procedure method cont
Procedure- Method cont.
  • In another condition the check surface was replaced by a uniformly grey one to ensure the validity of the measure.
    • Was it the depth cues, which are eliminated by the grey surface, causing the participant’s reactions?
  • 27/32 infants moved off the centreboard.
    • All 27 crawled onto the shallow surface.
    • Only 3 ventured on to the visual cliff.
    • Many infants moved away from their mother if she was beckoning them towards the visual cliff.
results cont
Results cont.
  • No lambs, kids or chicks ventured onto the visual cliff.
    • When placed on the visual cliff they froze.
  • In the adjustable cliff condition all animals froze when the visual cliff dropped more that 12 inches.
    • They did not adapt after multiple trials.
  • In the uniform grey condition animals showed no preference for either side of the surface.
  • All animals, including humans, had intact depth perception by the time they could move.
  • In animals this occured within 24hrs of birth, suggesting depth perception is innate.
  • Thus, the nativist position is supported.
  • The grey condition showed the innate mechanism for depth perception involves interpreting changes in patterns.
evaluation strengths
Evaluation- strengths
  • The visual cliff is a safe and easily identifiable measure.
  • Visual cliff procedure controlled for extraneous variables, such as touch perception. Improved validity.
  • Tested on a range of species.
  • Straightforward procedure.
    • Easily replicable- good external reliability.
    • Participants all had a very similar experience- good internal validity.
evaluation weaknesses
Evaluation- weaknesses
  • Small sample.
  • Large age range of infants. Infants have time to learn depth perception.
    • Conclusions are justified by trials with other species.
  • Behavioural measure- could not test infant’s or animal’s reasons for moving away from the visual cliff. Issue of validity.
  • Ethics- causing distress to infants and animals. Cannot be asked for consent directly. Unable to withdraw.
past exam questions
Past Exam Questions

Section A

  • Summarise the aims and context of Gibson and Walk’s (1960) research ‘The Visual Cliff’. [12] 2011
  • Describe the findings and conclusions of Gibson & Walk’s (1960) research ‘The visual cliff’. [12] 2009

Section B

  • With reference to alternative evidence, critically assess Gibson & Walk’s (1960) research ‘The Visual Cliff’. [12] 2009