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Chapter 7

PSYC 2450 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Good Music, Reinforcement, Crossmodal

Course Code
PSYC 2450
Anneke Olthof

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Chapter 7
o Sensation: process by which sensory receptor neurons detect information and transmit it to
the brain
o Perception: interpretation of sensory input: recognizing what you see, understanding what is
said to you, or knowing that the odor you’ve detected is fresh-baked bread
o Learning is the process by which our behaviors change as a result of experience
Early controversies about sensory and perceptual development
Nature versus nurture
o Empiricist philosophers believed that an infant had tabula rasa and must learn to interpret
o Navist philosopher (Rene Descartes and Immanuel Kant) took the nature side of
nature/nurture issue arguing that many basic perceptual abilities are innate
o Today’s developmentalists take less extreme stand on this nature/nurture issue. They
recognize that the perceptual world of a human neonate is limited and both maturational
processes and experience contribute to growth of perceptual awareness
Enrichment versus differentiation
o Objective reality to which we respond
o Enrichment theory: specifies that we must add to sensory stimulation by drawing on stored
knowledge in order to perceive a meaning world
o Differentiation theory: theory specifies that perception involves detecting distinctive
features or cues that are contained in the sensory stimulation we receive
o Distinctive features: characteristic of a stimulus that remain contains; dimensions on which
2 or + objects differ and can be discriminated (also called invariances or invariant features)
Research methods used to study the infants sensory and perceptual experiences
The preference method
o This method is a simple procedure in which at least two stimuli are presented simultaneously
to see whether infants will attend more to one od them that the others
Determine if young infants could discriminated visual patterns
Ability to detect and discriminate patterns is innate
Short coming: if infant shows no preference to stimulus; not clear of she or he failed to
discriminate them or found them equally interesting
The habituation method
o Process in which a repeated stimulus becomes so familiar that responses initially associated
with no longer occur
Simple form of learning also known as familiarization novelty procedure
Dishabituation: showing a change in respiration or heart rate when presented a another
To categorize infant looking behaviors, researchers must pay carful attention to the
familiarization time line of each infant being tested

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The evoked potentials method
o Evoked potential: a change in patterning of the brain waves that indicated that an individual
detects (senses) a stimulus
The high-amplitude sucking method
o Method of assessing infants perceptual capabilities that capitalizes on the ability of infants to
make interesting events last by varying the rate at which they suck on a special pacifier
Infants can exert enough control over their sucking behavior to use it to show us what they
can sense and to give us some idea of their likes and dislikes
Can be modified to let the infant tell us which of two stimuli is preferred
Infant sensory capabilities
o Using evoked potentials method researches have found that soft sounds that adult hear must
be made noticeably louder before a neonate can detect them
o Habituation studies indicate that neonates are capable of discriminating sounds that differ in
loudness, duration, direction and frequency
Reaction to voices
- Young infant are particularly attentive to high pitch feminine voices and they can recognize
their mother voice
- Research by Anthony DeCasper reveals that newborns suck faster on a nipple to hear a
recording of their mother’s voice than a recording of another woman
Reaction to language
- Phonemes: able to discriminate basic speech sounds early in life
Can recognize phonemes from other languages and can recognize words that they hear
often at about 1 year, infants turn in response to their own names when the names are only
5 decibels louder than background voices
- Hearing in highly developed at birth, but infants in their first six months of life are not
always consistent in responding to noises when noises are presented to them (U-shaped
curve; see box 7.2)
- Otitis media: common bacterial infection of the middle ear that produces mild to moderate
hearing loss
Taste and smell
o Infant suck faster and longer for sweet liquids than for bitter, sour, salty or neutral (water)
solutions and different tastes elicit different facial expression from newborns
Sweet reduce crying and produce smiles and smacking of lips, whereas sour substance
cause infants to wrinkle their noses and purse their lip, bitter solutions elicit expressions
of disgust
o Newborn are capable of detecting a variety of odors and they react vigorously by turning
away and displaying expressions of disgust in response to unpleasant smells like vinegar,
ammonia or rotten eggs
A 1 to 2 week-old breastfed infant can already recognize her or his mother by the smell
of her breast and underarms

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Touch, temperature and pain
o Sensitivity to touch enhances infants responsiveness to their environments and newborns
are sensitive to warmth, cold and changes in temperature
o 1-day-old infants cry loudly when pricked by a needle for a blood test. Young infants show
greater distress upon receiving an inoculation than 5- to 11-months old
o Male babies are highly stressed by circumcision
Babies treated with a mild topical anesthetic and given a sugary solution to suck are less
stressed by this operation
o Least mature of a newborns sensory capabilities changes in brightness will elicit a subcortical
papillary reflex, which indicates that the neonate is sensitive to light, they can detect and
track movement as long as it is moving slowly and they are more likely to track faces than
other patterns, although this preference for faces disappears within 1 or 2 months
o By 2 or 3 months of age, babies can discriminate all the basic colors and by 4 months they
are grouping colors of slightly different shags into the same basic categories
o Very young infants do not resolve fine detail very well
Visual acuity: suggest that a neonate’s distance vision is about 20/600, which means that
she sees at 6 m what an adult with excellent vision sees at 183 m
Visual contrast: amount of light/dark transition in a visual stimulus. Require sharper
vision than adults do, but by 6 months, babies visual acuity is about 20/100 and by age 12
moths the see about as well as adults do
(See table 7.1 for a summary)
Visual perception in infancy
Perception of patterns
Early pattern perception (0-2 months)
- Fantz’s test with the normal, scrambled face; infants interesting in both
- Very young infants prefer to look at high contrast patterns with many sharp boundaries
between light and dark areas, and at moderately complex patterns that have curvilinear
- Prefer to look at moderately complex checkerboard over highly complex and those that
capture their attention by moving
Later form perception (2 months to 1 year)
- Between 2 and 12 months of age, the infants visual system is rapidly maturing
- Ability to use object movement to perceive form is apparently not present at birth but has
developed at 2 months
Explaining form perception
- Newborns are biologically prepared to seek visual stimulation and make visual
discriminations (keeps the visual neurons firing and contribute to the maturation of the visual
centres of the brain)
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