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Chapter 4

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Mark Schmuckler

Child Psychology –3 Canadian Edition Chapter 4 – Infancy: Sensation, Perception, and Learning The Newborn - A New Baby’s Reflexes o Human behaviour appears organized from very early in life – some of first behaviours to appear are reflexes or involuntary responses to external stimuli o Abnormalities in a baby’s reflexes during the first days or weeks after birth can be useful indicators for identifying visual and hearing problems; they can help predict abnormal functions that do not appear until months or years later - Infant States o Infant states: recurring pattern of arousal in the newborn, ranging from alert, vigorous, wakeful activity, to quiet, regular sleep o Infant states indicate that from early in life, human behaviour is organized and predictable o Internal forces play a central role in infant states and their changes o Sleep  Newborn, on average, sleeps about 70% of the time  As the child ages, periods of sleep tend to be fewer but longer, and then shift to more during the night  Infant becomes less fussy as she gains better control over her states of arousal  Sleeping patterns and arrangements differ across cultures (i.e. Mayan mothers view the North American custom of separate beds for babies as “tantamount to child neglect”  Rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep – often identified with dreaming because during dreams, eyes dart around in rapid, jerky movements under closed eyelids, also characterized by fluctuating heart rate and blood pressure  In newborns, 50% of sleep is REM sleep, which declines to about 20% by the time they reach adulthood  Autostimulation theory: during REM sleep, the infant’s brain stimulates itself and that this, in turn, stimulates early development of the central nervous system, which accounts for the high level of REM sleep in newborns o Crying  3 different patterns of crying:  Basic – linked to hunger, sequence: cry-rest-inhale-rest  Angry – may be caused by removal of toy, longer crying segments  Pain – sudden in onset, caused by discomfort, stomach pain, sequence: long cry-long silence-short, gasping inhalations  Most mothers can distinguish the cries of their own baby  Early months - crying is related to physiology, 3 or 4 months – related to psychological needs  If the parent is able to distinguish between types of cries – delaying a response to crying for a minor matter may help the baby become more self-sufficient in dealing with minor irritations  Crying patterns can sometimes help physicians in identifying possible abnormalities in early development  Colic – prolonged period of unexplained crying, usually harmless, but can sometimes indicate an illness - Box 4.1 – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) o Sudden and unexpected death of an otherwise apparently healthy infant under 1 year of age during sleep, cause of death usually remains unexplained o Most common between 2 and 4 months of age, rarely occurs after 6 months o Apnea – spontaneous interruption of breathing that sometimes occur during sleep – may be a factor in SIDS o Babies should sleep on their backs, not stomachs, which may depress breathing - How to Soothe an Infant o Infants’ Ability to Sooth Themselves  Sucking may comfort very young infants; reduce distress  Soothing techniques that work will change as the infant ages  At younger ages, infants may rely on social contact with caregivers to soothe them and regulate stress o How Parents Soothe Their Babies  Infants learn more when they are in a calm but alert state  Techniques of soothing: rocking, swaddling, massaging, etc. - Evaluating the Newborn’s Health and Capacities o Brazelton Neonatal Assessment Scale – scale that measures an infant’s sensory and perceptual capabilities, motor development, range of states, and ability to regulate these states, and signs that the brain is properly controlling involuntary responses; used to identify infants at risk for development problems, can aid in diagnosing neurological impairment, predict later development - Box 4.2 – How Culture Affects Crying and Soothability o Variation in caregiving between !Kung San, which differs from Western in care in that it includes holding and carrying more than 80% of time, seems to have an impact on some aspects of crying behaviour o Chinese-American babies tend to calm themselves more readily and were more easily consoled by caregivers then European-American babies The Infant’s Sensory and Perceptual Capacities - Infant’s sensory receptors teach them about the world through their sensations (detection of stimuli by sensory receptors), and their perception (interpretation of sensations to make them meaningful) - Infant’s sensory and perceptual abilities are sensitive to the social environment - Unlocking the Secrets of Babies’ Sensory Capacities o To study an infant’s sensory capabilities, researchers rely on information from the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary bodily functions (i.e. heart rate) o Newborn’s motor responses, sucking patterns, visual preference can give clues to sensory abilities o Visual preference model: infant is presented with two stimuli, amount of time spent looking at each is measured, if infant looks longer at one stimuli than the other, assume infant can distinguish o Habituation: individual reacts with less and less intensity to a repeatedly presented stimulus, eventually responding only faintly or not at all - Hearing: Babies are Good Listeners o Development of the fetus’ auditory system is completed well before birth o For newborns, sounds must be about 10-17 dB louder than the sounds that an adult can detect o Auditory localization: ability to determine from where a sound is originating o Newborns can not only detect which side the sound is coming from, but they can determine the approximate location of the sound o Humans are biologically prepared for processing music and
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