Topics: Sensory system, Visual system, Visual perception Pages: 5 (1563 words) Published: May 6, 2014

TMA01 - Essay

Option 2
Imagine you are a nursery worker. The manager is planning some changes to the environment of the nursery and to the play activities. Before she does so, she wants to understand more about the auditory and visual perception of infants. She has asked you to write an overview of the major developments of the infant’s auditory and visual abilities during the first 18 months of life. Write an essay, drawing on research evidence, which describes the development of infants’ sensory abilities and how research has generated this knowledge.

Auditory & Visual Perception Of Infants

This essay will look at views on how infants perceive the world. It will focus on the empiricist view and the nativist view; we will try and understand how sensation, perception, cognition and behaviour go hand-in-hand. The auditory and visual perception of infants including the importance of cross-modal perception.

At birth the nervous system, which includes the sensory pathway has not yet been developed and it is therefore difficult to asses or understand what babies can sense. There are different views and theories on how infants perceive the world.

The Empiricist view, in which Piaget suggests that ‘the chaos of early perception only makes sense when babies start to link their actions with their perceptions.’ (Book 1 Chapter 3 Page 92) He called this the ‘Sensori-motor stage’ because he thought that the main important task for infants to learn is the link between sensation and movement. Piaget’s theory takes experience as the starting point of knowledge. However, on the other hand the Nativist view argues that infants are born with some basic knowledge and understanding. There are two different forms of this view which have appeared over the years: “Core knowledge (Spelke) babies have a basic understanding physical objects, numbers at birth. Social knowledge (Meltzoff) babies are born with an understanding of faces and people as social objects.” (Book 1 Chapter 3 Page 92)

Sensation, perception, cognition and behaviour are an important system which go hand-in-hand. Our knowledge of the world depends on our senses: vision, hearing, taste, smell, position, movement, balance, and touch. If someone bounces a basketball, our eyes and ears pick up stimuli such as light and sound waves and send neural signals to the brain. This process called sensation occurs when physical energy from objects in the world or in the body stimulates the sense organs.

However, only when the signals come together meaningfully do we actually perceive a bouncing basketball. Perception happens when the brain organises and interprets sensory information. We then come on to cognition, this relates to not only registering a perception but associating it with any previous perceptions; so when we come across a bouncing basketball we link it back to any other time we have come across a bouncing basketball. Our behaviour is then a reaction or response to what we have sensed, perceived and how it has related to any past experience.

Audition is often treated as a secondary sensory system behind vision, but it is also very important especially to communicate. Hearing starts around 6 months pre-natal, at birth the anatomical structures mostly mature. Hearing sensitivity gradually increases in the early years.

Like vision, preference for some auditory stimuli is shown. Fernald demonstrated, ‘Motherese’ was preferred in 4 month olds over normal speech. We use changes in pitch and rhythm when we talk to children, and we emphasise important words This is what children usually learn and produce first. However, happy normal speech preferred to unhappy Motherese (Page 113 Singh) This just tells us how infants are able to respond at such a young age and they are able differentiate between a happy and unhappy voice.

DeCasper and Fifer used sucking rates to control what an infant heard, ba and pa phonemes. Rates increase when first...

References: Book 1 Chapter 3 - Psychological Development and Early Childhood ED209 Child Development Milton Keynes, The Open University. Oates, Wood and Grayson (2006) ‘Sensation to perception’ Slater and Otes
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