Visual Structure Grips Infants' Attention. (Eye-Grabbing Insights)

By Bower, B. | Science News, November 9, 2002 | Go to article overview

Visual Structure Grips Infants' Attention. (Eye-Grabbing Insights)


Bower, B., Science News


Babies take their first major strides with their eyes, not their legs, as they rapidly distinguish among playpens, pacifiers, and a plethora of other objects. These feats of sight draw on infants' ability to keep track of pairs of shapes that regularly appear in the same spatial arrangement, according to a new study.

Sensitivity to such pairings in the visual world provides babies--by 9 months of age--with a foothold for learning to recognize all sorts of items, propose Jozsef Fiser and Richard N. Aslin of the University of Rochester (N.Y.) in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Infants prefer to look at pairs of [shapes] that have frequently co-occurred in visual scenes and may use them to learn about more-complex visual features," the scientists note.

Fiser and Aslin studied 72 infants, all 9 months old. While sitting on a parent's lap, each child watched a set of randomly displayed scenes on a computer screen. Each scene contained three colored geometric shapes from a pool of 12 shapes. Eight shapes were grouped into four pairs that always appeared in the same arrangement, either one above the other or side-to-side. Each of the remaining four shapes was shown with a specific pairmate, but their relative locations varied from one scene to another.

The researchers presented the babies with an initial series of 16 scenes that was repeated until infant interest flagged.

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