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Chapter 6

Psychology 2040A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Evoked Potential, Immanuel Kant, Perceptual Learning

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Psych 2040A
Chapter 6: Early Cognitive Foundations: Sensation, Perception, and Learning
distinguish between sensation and perception
sensation: detection of stimuli by the sensory receptors and transmission of this
information to the brain
perception: process by which we categorize and interpret sensory input
recognizing what we see, understanding what is said to us, etc
big question: are newborns born with the innate ability to detect and interpret
stimulus? or is this something learned over the years?
Early Controversies about Sensory and Perceptual Development
Nature vs. Nurture
Empiricist philosophers believed that an infant was a tabula rasa (blank slate) who
must learn to interpret sensations (nurture)
Nativist philosophers (ie. Rene Descartes and Immanuel Kant) believed that many
basic perceptual abilities are innate
born with an understanding of spatial relations
Today, we believe that BOTH nature and nurture interact and contribute to our growth
and development as humans
Enrichment vs. Differentiation
enrichment theory: theory specifying that we must add to sensory stimulation by
drawing on stored knowledge in order to perceive a meaningful world
we add to our cognitive schemes as we come across new things
differentiation theory: theory specifying that perception involves detecting distinctive
features or cues that are contained in the sensory stimulation we receive
our tasks as receivers is to detect the differentiating information with the help of
distinctive features - characteristics of a stimulus that remain constant;
dimensions on which two or more objects differ and can be discriminated
(sometimes called invariances or invariant features)
Research Methods Used to Study the Infantʼs Sensory and Perceptual
in the early 1900s, medical texts indicated that babies were born deaf, blind, mute and
impervious to pain for several days after birth
The Preference Method
The preference method: method used to gain information about infantsʼ perceptual
abilities by presenting two (or more) stimuli and observing which stimulus the infant
Robert Fantz determined whether infants could discriminate between visual patters
- found that infants preferred patterned stimuli such as faces or concentric circles

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big limitation: if infant shows no preference between the stimuli, we donʼt know if
the infant failed to discriminate between the two or simply found them equally
The Habituation Method
habituation: the decrease in oneʼs response to a stimulus that has become familiar
through repetition
this is a simple form of learning
this method is also known as “familiarization-novelty”
to test an infantʼs ability to discriminate between two stimulus, a first one is presented
until the infant stops responding (habituates).
then, the 2nd stimulus is presented - if the infant discriminates between the two,
the infant will dishabituate - increase in responsiveness that occurs when
stimulation changes
change in responsiveness can be detected by a change in heart rate or
The Method of Evoked Potentials
another way of determining what infants can sense or perceive is to present them with
a stimulus and record their brain waves
evoked potential: a change in patterning of the brain waves that indicate an
individual detects (senses) a stimulus
produce different patterns of electrical activity
The High-Amplitude Sucking Method
the high-amplitude sucking method: a method of assessing infantsʼ perceptual
capabilities that capitalizes on the ability of infants to make interesting events last by
varying the rate at which they such on a special pacifier
measures the infantʼs base like sucking rate before presenting them with stimulus
as the infant reachers a certain rate of sucking, the sensory stimulation is activated
and presented
if the infant finds this stimuli interesting, they can make it last by displaying
bursts of high-amplitude sucking
can present another stimulus (second one) and if the infant displays a change in
the sucking rate, then we can conclude that the infant can differentiate between the
two stimuli
Infant Sensory Capabilities
with the evoked potential method, researchers have found that soft sounds that adults
hear must be made noticeably louder for neonates to hear/detect
insensitivity to softer sounds could be due to fluids that have seeped into the inner ear
during the birth process
other than this limitation, neonates can hear very well

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Reactions to Voices
usually attentive to high-pitched female voices
newborns are more attentive to their motherʼs voices than any other voice
there is a suggestion that infants may need to see facial expressions to help them
distinguish adult emotional states
Reactions to Language
babies are able to distinguish basic speech sounds - phonemes
infants less than 1 week old can tell the difference between the vowels a and i
infants are actually better than adults at perceiving certain phonemes that are not a
part of the language their companions speak
by 4.5 months, they turn their heads to their own names, but not to other names
even if its similar
hearing is highly developed at birth, but infants in their first 6 months of life are now
always consistent in responding to noises when presented
Taste and Smell
infants usually are born with a sweet tooth, they suck faster and longer for sweet
liquids than for bitter, sour, salty, or neutral (water) solutions
sweets reduce crying, produce smiles and smacking of lips
also capable of detecting odours and display expressions of disgust to unwanted
each of us has a unique “olfactory signature” - a characteristic odour that babies can
use as an early means of identifying their closest companions
Touch, Temperature, and Pain
premature infants show between developmental progress when they are periodically
stroked and massaged in their isolettes
the gentle stroking and massaging arouses inattentive infants and calms agitated
ones, often causing them to smile at and become more involved with their
in the first year of life, babies begin to explore their sense of touch - first with their lips,
and then their hands
very sensitive to temperature changes
babies can show distress to pain
male babies are highly stressed by circumcision - exhibit high-pitched wails
changes in brightness will elicit a subcortical pupillary reflex, which indicates that the
neonate is sensitive to light
babies can also detect movement in the visual field
newborns are likely to tract faces or facelike stimuli rather than other patterns
this represents an adaptive remnant of our evolutionary history - a reflex, controlled
by subcortical areas of the brain that serves to orient babies to their caregivers and
promote social interactions
neonates see the world in colour, but have trouble distinguishing between blues,
greens, and yellows, from whites
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