Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists shed new light on speed of infant learning

26.08.2003


New study reveals knowledge of object concepts is less inborn than acquired

The question of how and when we develop our knowledge of object behavior – such as knowing that when a ball rolls behind a sofa, that it is likely to roll out the other side – is an ongoing puzzle in cognitive science. Previously, scientists had thought that infants learned to understand this concept through manual exploration. However, subsequent research indicated that infants developed an understanding of objects even before they had the ability to reach and grasp, leading scientists to postulate that object knowledge could be something babies are born with.

But new research by a team of psychologists, led by Scott Johnson of New York University, provides the first conclusive evidence that infants actually learn object concepts at a very young age – between three to six months – and that they do so through visual observation.



The research sheds new light on how soon and how quickly infants learn, as well as their ability to build an understanding of object concepts through stationary observation of the standard home environment. The findings were published in the August 25 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our research provides the first conclusive documentation of how and when infants learn about object concepts, and serves as a strong argument against theories that infant knowledge in this area is innate," said Johnson. "It had previously been presumed that six-month-old infants could not have had enough time to acquire this type of knowledge, but what’s truly amazing is how rapidly they’re able to pick up these concepts."

To conduct their experiments, the researchers employed a unique eye-tracking experiment with four- and six-month-old infants, who were shown a 32-inch computer screen depicting a ball rolling horizontally back and forth. After two minutes of exposure to this trajectory, the infants were then shown a ball moving across the same screen space but its movements were temporarily obscured by an occluding box. Using a special camera that records eye movements from the center of the pupil and the cornea, data were gathered through an infrared signal tracking the various positions of the eye as the infant observed the moving ball in various stages. Of central interest was whether the infant anticipated the ball’s emergence from behind the occluder, as if she had represented the ball’s continued existence despite being out of sight.

The experiment showed that infants who were exposed to the unobscured trajectory were better able to learn to anticipate the movement of the ball when it was later obscured than infants who had not been shown the unobscured trajectory. The team also found that babies who were six months of age had already grasped the fundamentals of object concepts, suggesting that they had learned such representations from real-world experience viewing objects.

"Another implication of our findings is that infants do not necessarily benefit from stimulating toys or exercises; most babies will grasp these concepts quickly through visual observation, rather than manual object manipulation" Johnson added.

The experiment marks the most sophisticated and sensitive research conducted to date of infant learning through eye movements, and the findings mark a shift from the nativist supposition – which believed learning of object concepts to be innate – back to the developmental theories famously espoused by Piaget in the 1930s. Going forward, Johnson and his colleagues will build on these results by using event-related potentials to measure activity in the brain while the infants are learning in real time.


The PNAS paper, entitled Development of Object Concepts in Infancy: Evidence for Early Learning in an Eye Tracking Paradigm, was co-authored by Dima Amso of New York University and Jonathan A. Slemmer of Cornell University. For a copy of the paper, contact Shonna Keogan at shonna.keogan@nyu.edu or Scott Johnson at scott.johnson@nyu.edu.

Scott Johnson is an Associate Professor of Psychology at New York University, specializing in the study of visual and cognitive development, especially in infancy. He earned a bachelors degree in 1985 and a Ph.D. in 1992, both from Arizona State University. The studies were funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.

Shonna Keogan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nyu.edu/

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>