The foregoing chapter reviews the results of a contemporaneous psychological inquiry into the question of perceptual organization and endeavors to catalog some of the ways in which two kinds of perceptual organization lend structure to otherwise little organized and persistently novel experiences near the beginning of life. This line of investigation suggests that organisms are naturally biased to generalize over physical variation of particular sorts and to attend selectively to certain kinds of information. Classification is a central theme of long-standing appeal in philosophy and the psychology of sense perception; and, attention has long been recognized to be a gateway to perception, thought, and action. These twin characteristics of perceptual organization help the child go beyond elementary units of sensing to perceiving with understanding; further, they provide one solution for the developmental "problem of structure" as Bruner ( 1978, p. 1354) has termed it: "If we must already know something in order to learn anything, how do we get started learning at all?" In memory of Mollie Pepper, who effected her own transitions.
Research reported in this chapter was partially supported by the Spencer Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. I wish to express much gratitude to Helen Bornstein, Nancy Cantor, Charles Gross, William Kessen, and Diane Ruble for constructive criticism of earlier versions of this chapter, and to Kay Ferdinandsen, Arlene Kronewitter, and Mary Ann Opperman for invaluable aid in preparing the manuscript.
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