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Chapter 4

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Western University
Psychology 2040A/B
Jackie Sullivan

Chapter Four: Infancy: Early Learning, Motor Skills & Perceptual Capacities The Organized Infant Reflexes - A reflex is an inborn, automatic response to a particular form of stimulation - Pg. 130 – list of reflexes Adaptive Value of Reflexes - Some reflexes have survival value (sucking, swimming) - Other reflexes probably helped babies survive in the evolutionary past (Moro) - Several reflexes help parents establish an interaction & can also help parents comfort the baby Reflexes & the Development of Motor Skills - A few reflexes form the basis for complex motor skills that will develop later (tonic neck, palmar grasp, swimming, stepping – all motor functions involved are renewed later) The Importance of Assessing Reflexes - Most newborn reflexes disappear after 6 months due to gradual increase in voluntary control as cerebral cortex develops - Doctors test reflexes to see if the baby’s nervous system is healthy States - Newborn infants move in & out of 5 states of arousal or degrees of sleep & wakefulness o Regular, or NREM sleep (infant full rest, no body activity, eyelids closed, no eye movement, face relaxed & breathing is slow & regular) o Irregular, or REM sleep (gentle limb movements, stirring & facial grimacing, eyelids closed, rapid eye movement, breathing irregular) o Drowsiness (either falling asleep or waking up, body is less active than in irregular sleep & more active than in regular sleep, eyes open & close, when open they are glazed, breathing is even but somewhat faster than in regular sleep) o Quiet Alertness (body relatively inactive, eyes open & attentive, breathing is even) o Waking Activity & Crying (infant shows burst of uncoordinated activity, breathing is very irregular, face may be rstaxed or tense/wrinkled, crying may occur) - During the 1 month, these states alternate frequently – mostly sleeping - Sleeping declines as they get older and conforms to a circadian rhythm (24h schedule) - These changing arousal patterns are due to brain development and cultural practices o Working parents usually get their infants to sleep during the night - Napping facilitates retention of higher-order word patterns – a skill essential for language development Sleep - Sleep is made up of 2 states: o Irregular or REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep, brain-wave activity, measure with EEG, is similar to that of the waking state; the eyes dart beneath the lids, HR, BP & breathing are uneven; and slight body movements occur o Regular or NREM (non-) sleep, body is almost motionless, HR, breathing & brain-wave activity are slow & even  Like adults, newborns alternate between REM & NREM but spend far more time in the REM state (50%) and declines in adulthood (20%) – REM is vital for growth of the CNS & helps protect the eyes with movement - Infants with brain damage usually have disturbed REM-NREM cycles and those with poor sleep organization tend to have difficulty learning & show delay cognitive, motor & language development Story (pg. 134) Crying - The first way that babies can communicate - Usually cry because of physical needs (hunger usually, but also temperature, pain or sudden noise) - Also cry if hear another baby crying & happens in all cultures (adjustments to the CNS may underlie it?) - Adult Responsiveness to Infant Cries: o Stimulates strong arousal & discomfort for men & women (innately programmed); some parents are more likely to respond quicker depending on their beliefs while others want the baby to self-sooth - Soothing a Crying Infant: o Many ways to soothe a crying baby, rocking, walking are highly effective; according to the ethological theory, parental responsiveness is adaptive in that it ensures that the infant’s basic needs will be met and brings the baby closer to the caregiver & encourages the bay to communicate in other means (mothers who failed to respond to their baby’s cries actually had more crying than those who did respond – but not all research indicates this) - Abnormal Crying: o Cries of brain-damaged babies are often shrill, piercing & shorter in duration; neonates (newborn) have a common problem (colic), persistent crying which tends to be high-pitched but the cause is unknown but does subside 3-6 months later Story (pg. 136) Neonatal Behavioural Assessment (NBAS) - Evaluates the baby’s reflexes, muscle tone, state changes, responsiveness to physical & social stimuli and other reactions o Another similar evaluate is the NNNS for newborns at risk - NBAS scores are different around the world which shows that child-rearing practices can maintain or change a baby’s reactions o Thus, a single score is not a good indicator for later development as a baby with a low score can improve if the parent provides enriching stimuli – therefore uses “recovery curves” to predict normal brain functioning, intelligence, etc. well into preschool years - Some hospitals use the NBAS & NNNS to help parents know their babies better which allows them to interact more effectively in the future Learning Capacities Classical Conditioning - Possible in the young infant; in this form of learning, a neutral stimulus is paired with a stimulus that leads to a reflexive response; once the baby’s NS makes he connective between the 2 stimuli, the new stimulus produces the behaviour by itself o Before learning occurs, UCS must consistently produce a reflexive, or unconditioned response (UCR)  UCS (milk); UCR (sucking) o To produce learning, a neutral stimulus that does not lead to the reflex is presented just before the UCS  Neutral stimulus (stroking); UCS (milk) o If learning has occurred, the stroking (now called the conditioned stimulus (CS)) alone elicits the sucking o If CS is presented alone enough times, the CR no longer occurs – extinction Operant Conditioning - Infants act, or operate, on the environment & stimuli that follow their behaviour change the probability that the behaviour will occur again; a stimulus that increases the occurrence (reinforce) and removing a desirable stimulus or presenting an unpleasant one to decrease the occurrence (punishment) o Infants’ memory for operant responses is highly context dependent (ex. Colour of the toy must be the same) Habituation - Refers to a gradual reduction in the strength of a response due to repetitive stimulation - A new stimulus (change in environment) causes the habituated response to return to a high level (recovery) - Window into Early Attention, Memory & Knowledge:rd o Auditory habituation is evident in the 3 trimester o Preterm & newborn infants require a long time (3-4 mins) to habituate & recover to novel visual stimuli but this changes at 4-5 months o Recovery to a new stimulus or novelty preference, assesses infants’ recent memory; also later in life familiarity preference becomes stronger than the novelty - In habituation research, infants retain certain information over much longer time spans than they do in operant conditioning studied; also in habituation, learning is not context dependent but they are detecting relationships - Habituation & Later Mental Development o Habituation & recovery to visual stimuli are among the earliest available predictors of intelligence in childhood, adolescence & young adulthood o So far, all researchers have looked at is recognition memory, which is easy to assess; another type of memory is recall, which is more challenging Newborn Imitation - By copying the behaviour of another person, one learns an ability - Infants can imitate certain facial motions (some controversy) - Meltzoff believes that newborns imitate much as older children & adults do – by actively trying to match body movements they see with ones they feel themselves make - Scientists have identified specialized cells in many areas of the cerebral cortex of primates – mirror neurons – that underlie these capacities; mirror neurons fire identically when a primate hears or see an actions & when it carries out that action on its own o Brain-imaging support functioning mirror-neuron system as early as 6 months in humans - Although infant imitation is controversial, imitation is a powerful means of learning Motor Development in Infancy - Movement & parent recognition/responses help drive a child The Sequence of Motor Development - Gross-motor development refers to control over actions that help infants get around in the environment (crawling, standing, walking) - Fine-motor development has to do with smaller movements (reaching, grasping) o Individuals vary on how fast they learn, not always in the same order o The dynamic systems perspective, helps us understand how motor development takes place Motor Skills as Dynamic Systems - According to dynamic systems theory of motor development, mastery of motor skills involved acquiring increasingly complex systems of action o When motor skills work as a system, separate abilities blend together, each cooperating with others to produce more effective ways of exploring & controlling the environment o Each new skill (ex. Sitting to standing) is a joint product of the CNS development, body’s movement capacities, the goals the child has in mind & environmental support for the skill o Motor development cannot be genetically determined because it is motivated by exploration & desire to master a new task Dynamic Motor Systems in Action - To find out how infants acquire motor capacities, researchers conduct microgenetic studies, following babies from their first attempt at a skill until it becomes smooth & effortless Cultural Variations in Motor Development - Cross-cultural research further illustrates how early movement opportunities & a stimulating environment contribute to motor development - Some cultures believe that moving should be encouraged while other believe child should “just learn” & some discourage motor skills for safety purposes Fine-Motor Development: Reaching & Grasping - Start out with gross movements then move toward mastery of fine movements - Newborns make poorly coordinated swipes = prereaching and also can cover their eyes from light o Prereaching drops out around 7 weeks when eye movements can track objects Development of Reaching & Grasping - 3-4 months, eye movements allow infants to reach and move arm forward - 5-6 months, infants reach for an object in a room that has been darkened o Indicates babies don’t need vision to guide their arms & hands in reaching thus, reaching is largely controlled by proprioception (our sense of movement & location in space) - Reaching improves as depth perception advances & they gain better control of their body posture & limbs - By 7 months, arms become more independent (can reach with only 1 arm instead of both) - Once an infant can reach, they modify their grasp o Ulnar grasp, a clumsy motion in which the baby’s fingers close against the palm o Pincer grasp, infants use the thumb & index finger in a well-coordinated grasp (end of 1 year) Early Experience & Reaching - Other cultures develop reaching skills earlier than Western cultures because of the situations they are put in early in life o If the mother carries the baby while riding, the baby must hold on to the mother in order to breastfeed - Babies’ visual surroundings are also influenced; highly stimulated babies will reach for things faster than babies that do not see any stimuli (but too much stimulation bothered the babies – more is not better in this case) Perceptual Development in Infancy Touch - Is a fundamental means of interaction between parents & babies - Touch stimulates early physical growth & is vital for emotional development - Infants are very sensitive and respond to pain with a high-pitched cry and rise in HR, BP, sweat, pupil dilation & muscle tension o Sugar water or breast milk helps to reduce stress & crying & touch also helps as touch releases endorphins (painkilling chemical in the brain
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