A new study by a New York University professor suggests perceptual maturity in infants develops in the early months after birth as a result of piecing together fragments of the visual scene. The findings, published in the latest issue of Psychological Science, shed new light on our fundamental knowledge of how objects behave, giving weight to the scientific camp that argues such development is a "constructed" rather than an "innate" phenomenon.
Advocates of innate perception have based their conclusions on previous research, which typically measured perceptual abilities of four-month-olds and older infants. However, Scott Johnson, a professor of psychology and neural science who conducted the study, compared these abilities in both two- and four-month-olds, finding distinctions in the perceptual skills of the two groups.
"These results are only a part of the larger literature on perception, but this study does provide a very important piece of the puzzle," said Johnson. "It is now clear that theories of innate knowledge do not hold up under scrutiny. Instead, the developing visual system seems to build object representations from smaller, visible components, such as the visible portions of a partly occluded object. Isolating how and why this occurs should be the focal point of subsequent scholarship."
James Devitt | EurekAlert!
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