Infants Fine-Tune Their Visual and Auditory Skills in First Year of Life, Psychologist Says

Dec 11, 2007

Infants refine and narrow their ability to discriminate between things they see and hear in their first year, revealing what appears to be a decline in ability at a time when most other skills and functions are dramatically increasing, says Lisa S. Scott, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The observed process, however, may be an important recalibration of developing brain functions in infants that prepares them for later life, researchers say. The findings were published in a recent issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Scott and her colleagues report that between age 6 months and one year, infants undergo what is known as perceptual narrowing where the discrimination of perceptual information is broadly tuned at first and then declines to more selective levels with experience.

For example, in one study, 6-month-old infants were able to differentiate between two human faces as easily as two monkey faces, but 9-month-olds could only differentiate between two human faces. It was also shown that if infants are familiarized with monkey faces from age 6 months to 9 months they maintain the ability to tell the difference between two monkey faces.

Scott and her colleagues, Olivier Pascalis of the University of Sheffield in England, and Charles A. Nelson of Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston, say this process also takes place in other perceptual systems. In one test examining speech, 6-month-old infants could discriminate one sound from another from virtually every language, but by 9 months, this ability declines – unless the child receives experience with such sounds.

Scott says the research suggests that infants aren’t undergoing a developmental regression, but rather a move toward greater efficiency in perceiving and processing “salient rather than less salient environmental input.”

During development the human brain goes through a series of changes that are never again replicated throughout the lifespan, Scott says. “During this time the brain is sensitive and responsive to the surrounding environment. A dominant theme of this research is to understand how both typical and atypical experience influences the course of development and the organization of the brain.

She says her research examines “how we fine-tune our brains in an ever-changing world and how specific early experiences influence later abilities.

Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Explore further: We are family: Adult support reduces youths' risk of violence exposure

Related Stories

Ears, grips and fists take on mobile phone user ID

16 hours ago

A research project has been under way to explore a biometric authentication system dubbed Bodyprint, with interesting test results. Bodyprint has been designed to detect users' biometric features using the ...

More than 2,200 confirmed dead in Nepal earthquake

16 hours ago

A powerful aftershock shook Nepal on Sunday, making buildings sway and sending panicked Kathmandu residents running into the streets a day after a massive earthquake left more than 2,200 people dead.

Nepal quake: Nearly 1,400 dead, Everest shaken (Update)

Apr 25, 2015

Tens of thousands of people were spending the night in the open under a chilly and thunderous sky after a powerful earthquake devastated Nepal on Saturday, killing nearly 1,400, collapsing modern houses and ...

Recommended for you

The advantages of multilingualism

9 hours ago

'Multilingualism is not a problem, it's a gift.' So says Leena Huss, linguist and research leader of the minority studies programme at the Hugo Valentin Centre at Uppsala University.

Personal growth follows trauma for most soldiers

12 hours ago

More than half of soldiers who experience trauma also report strong psychological benefits, such as stronger intimate relationships, spiritual growth, and a greater appreciation of life because of their difficult ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.