CHAPTER 6 PERCEPTION

Learning Objectives

What are the views of constructivists and nativists on the nature/nurture issue as it relates to sensation and perception?

Nature and Nurture

Constructivists (Nurture) – Perception is constructed through learning – Declines due to environmental influences • E.g., disease, loud noise etc. Nativists (Nature) – Perception does not require interpretation – Declines are universal, due to aging

Learning Objectives

• • •

How are perceptual abilities of infants assessed? What are infants’ visual capabilities? What sorts of things do infants prefer to look at?

Methods of Studying Infant Perception

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Habituation: Discrimination Learning – “Learning to be bored” Preferential looking – Duration of looking at one of a pair Evoked Potentials: recorded as child looks Operant Conditioning – Positive reinforcement of one stimulus in a pair

Vision

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Present at birth – Detect changes in brightness – Visually track moving objects By 4 months can discriminate colors Visual acuity at about 8 inches Visual accommodation: 6 to 12 mo Color vision mature at 2 to 3 mo Prefer contour, contrast, and movement Prefer complex over simple patterns

Researchers must devise special ways to assess infants’ perceptual abilities. Here, an experimenter and camera record how much time the infant looks at each stimulus. The visual preference test was pioneered by Robert Fantz in the early 1960s.

In a series of studies, Cassia, Turati, and Simion (2004) showed that newborns prefer an upright face over an upside-down one (A) and prefer a top-heavy configuration over a bottom-heavy one (B), but do not show a preference for an upright face when paired with a top-heavy configuration.

Vision 2

• Depth perception
– Newborns appear to have size constancy – The visual cliff: Gibson & Walk (1960)

• Infants as Intuitive Theorists: able to make
sense of the world

• A crawler (7 mo) will not cross the cliff • Can perceive the cliff by 2 months • Fear of drop-off requires crawling

An infant on the edge of a visual cliff, being lured to cross the “deep” side.

Learning Objectives

• • • •

What are the auditory capabilities of infants? What do researchers know about infants’ abilities to perceive speech? What are the taste and smell capabilities of infants? To what extent are infants sensitive to touch, temperature, and pain?

Hearing and Speech

• • • • •

Humans can hear well before birth Newborns discriminate sounds that differ in loudness, duration, direction, and pitch Two- to 3-month olds distinguish phonemes – Eimas (1985) “Ba & Pa” studies Newborns prefer female/mother’s voice Lose sensitivity to sounds not needed for home language

Taste and Smell

• • •

Newborns can distinguish between sweet, bitter, and sour tastes – Show a clear preference for sweet – Facial expressions reflect taste Cry and turn away from unpleasant smells Breast-fed babies recognize mother’s smell Mothers can identify their newborns by smell

• • • •

Touch, Temperature, and Pain
Sense of touch (& motion) before birth – Useful for soothing a fussy baby At birth sensitivity to warm and cold Clearly sensitive to painful stimuli Do babies require anesthesia for surgery? – More harm from stress of pain – Recommended for circumcisions

Learning Objectives

• • • • •

To what extent can infants integrate their sensory experiences? What is an example of crossmodal perception? What role do early experiences play in development of perceptions? What factors contribute to normal visual perception? What changes occur in attention throughout childhood?

Integrating Sensory Information

• Senses interrelated within the first month • Cross-modal perception: previously seen • •

objects identified by touch alone Nature: Very early perceptual abilities Nurture: Sensory system requires stimulation to develop normally – First 3-4 months=Critical/Sensitive period • Infant cataracts result in blindness • Delayed understanding after cochlear implants

The Development of Attention

From infancy on: – Attention span increases – More able to concentrate on a task – Attention becomes more selective – Able to ignore distractions – More systematic perceptual searches in order to achieve goals & solve problems

Learning Objectives

• How can hearing loss be minimized across • • •

the lifespan, beginning with adolescence? What changes occur in visual capabilities and visual perception during adulthood? What changes occur in auditory capabilities and speech perception occur during adulthood? What changes occur in taste and smell, and in sensitivity to touch, temperature, and pain during adulthood?

The Adult

Sensory and perceptual capacities decline – May begin in early adulthood – Noticeable in 40s; Typical by age 65 – Gradual and minor in normal adults – Compensation gradually increases Sensory threshold: point at which the least amount of a stimulus can be detected – Increases with age

Sensory/Perceptual Problems

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Sensory thresholds rise with age Vision By age 70: 9/10 wear corrective lenses – 1 in 4 will have cataracts – Pupil less responsive to light • Dim lighting is problematic • Dark and glare adaptation difficult Presbyopia: Middle age glasses – Thickening lens = poor near vision

Other Visual Problems

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Retinal Changes: cells die, no longer function Age-Related Macular Degeneration – Loss of center visual field, blurry vision

Other Visual Problems

Glaucoma: increased eye-fluid pressure – Damages optic nerve….. Cataracts:

Other Visual Problems

• •

Loss of Peripheral Vision (Tunnel Vision) Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) – Deterioration of light-sensitive cells

Attention and Visual Search

Selective attention declines – More easily distracted from task – Attend to irrelevant cues Novel, complex tasks more difficult – Familiar and wellpracticed skills remain

Hearing/Speech in Older Adults

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Most have at least mild hearing loss Presbycusis: loss of highpitched sounds – More common and earlier in men Some difficulty with speech perception – May be cognitive or sensory – Background noise a problem Novel and complex tasks problematic

• • • •

Speech Perception
Dependent on hearing abilities Also cognitive processes – Attention, memory Listening conditions important – Background noise problematic Novel and complex tasks problematic – Familiar conditions allow use of contextual cues

Other Senses in Older Adults

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Over 70: Taste and smell thresholds increase – Many are not affected at all: Mostly men – Affected by disease and medications – Loss of enjoyment of food may cause malnutrition in older adults Less sensitive to touch and temperature Less sensitive to mild but not severe pain