Rules That Babies Look By: The Organization of Newborn Visual Activity

Rules That Babies Look By: The Organization of Newborn Visual Activity

Rules That Babies Look By: The Organization of Newborn Visual Activity

Rules That Babies Look By: The Organization of Newborn Visual Activity

Excerpt

This book describes a new approach to an old question. The question concerns what abilities the newborn human possesses to take on the task of learning about the world. The approach involves both a conceptual and a methodological redirection. A full exposition of these themes takes some time and, in a sense, occupies the full book. However, some introductory remarks will give the flavor of what follows.

Let me begin by saying I limit myself in this book to a discussion of the newborn's visual world. Speculation about newborn vision (by newborn I mean the first several days--usually 7--of life) can be found in the earliest writings of the "fathers" of modern psychology (for example, see Helmholtz, 1894, in Warren & Warren, 1968; James, 1890). Generally, the newborn's visual world was thought to be a mass of confusion and his ability to deal with it limited to a few simple reflexes. Desirous of moving beyond speculation, investigators in subsequent decades invented a number of impressive methodological approaches and technologies for visual research with infants. As a consequence of these advances and theoretical work, the general conceptions of early infancy have undergone several reorientations. In the first phase, during the early decades of the 1900s, the principal concern was with visual reflexes, such as pupillary constriction and dilation, or with the changes in visual stimuli that produced a response, such as brightness, color, and movement. Here, the baby was seen as a passive and reflexive recipient of stimuli and the question was "What can the young infant sense"?

After studies were performed at the University of Iowa in the 1930s that were concerned with the effect of light level on general activity, there was relative disinterest in newborn and early-infant vision until the 1950s and . . .

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