Future-Oriented Processes in Infancy: The Case of Visual Expectations
Marshall M. Haith University of Denver
I have been interested in a problem for almost 25 years, sparked by observations during a postdoctoral fellowship with William Kessen at Yale from 1964 to 1966. The problem concerns how babies organize their current activity around future events. This chapter summarizes progress that several collaborators and I have made on this problem in the past few years and describes some ancillary issues that have emerged from our work.
As several other chapters in this volume illustrate, researchers have made stunning progress in understanding infant visual perception and cognition since the 1960s. To a large extent, this understanding is based on infants' reactions to currently available input: for example, discrimination and preference to tell us about infants' pattern, shape, color, motion, and depth perception (see, for example, Banks & Salapatek, 1983). We have also learned a lot about processes that depend on past input: short- and long-term memory, retroactive interference, and memory generalization. So, we have done well with processes that focus on the present and the past.
However, our progress has been less satisfactory with processes that depend on the future. Such future-oriented processes include goal formation and motivation, intention, planning, expectation, and set. When one unpacks what is involved in a future-oriented process (FOP), the domain becomes especially interesting, because the exercise usually reveals that a FOP depends both on present conditions and how those conditions have unfolded in the past. As Wentworth ( 1988) observed, FOPs require a knitting together of the past and the