Newer Views

Modern theorists working in the tradition of cognitive science have suggested that some Gestalt-like biases (e.g., common movement, connected surface) combine with or are perhaps even derived from an innate representational structure for objects in general (i.e., an object concept) to initially perceive the coherence or unity of objects (Spelke, 1982). The amorphous but cohesive object "blobs" that are the outcomes of this primitive parsing process can then be tracked to determine their precise form, color, and surface texture. By this view, certain of the Gestalt principles, including good continuation and similarity, are learned rather than innate.

A different model regarding the development of object perception has been put forth by Kellman and colleagues (Kellman, 1996; Kellman & Arterberry, 1998; Kellman & Shipley, 1991). These researchers have argued for a two-process model of unit formation, inclusive of (1) a "primitive" edge insensitive process (EI) that is presumably available at birth and that responds to common motion information (but see Slater et al., 1990), and (2) a later "rich" edge sensitive process (ES) that becomes functional at around 7 months and that responds to good continuation information (but see Johnson & Aslin, 1996, for evidence of an earlier onset). By the Kellman account, the EI and ES processes reflect the workings of specialized perceptual input modules (Fodor, 1983) that have their own maturationally based time courses of operation. The Spelke and Kellman accounts of the development of object coherence share a view that older infants use information for unit formation that is not available to younger infants. They also have in common the idea that some kinds of information (e.g., movement) have priority because they are more essential (Spelke, 1982) or more ecologically valid (Kellman, 1993) than other sources of information (e.g., form) for individuating objects in a visual scene.

The most recent accounts of early object perception by infants have begun to suggest that we may need to revise our thinking about the sources of information that young infants can utilize to achieve unit formation (Johnson, 1998; Needham, 2001). For example, the experiments of Johnson and Aslin (1996) indicate that 4-month-old infants may rely on a variety of cues including common motion, depth, accretion and deletion of background texture, color similarity, and good continuation information to represent the unity of a partly occluded object. Based on their results, Johnson and Aslin have proposed a sensory-perceptual threshold model for describing infant performance. When multiple cues are detected from the same display, these cues sum together and become sufficient for unit formation. Failure to represent object unity may reflect lack of cues, lack of sensitivity to the cues, or both.

Needham and Baillargeon (1998) have also embraced the idea that there is a multiplicity of cues for object representation in young infants. These investigators have shown that 4.5-month-olds can use configural information (e.g., color, shape, and texture similarity) and experiential information (e.g., knowledge of object kinds and particular objects) to form segregated units from displays of adjacent objects (see also Needham, 1998). In addition, 8-month-olds were found to use physical information (e.g., knowledge of support and solidity relations) to supplement configural information to form individuated representations for adjacent objects (Needham & Baillargeon, 1997). Moreover, the physical information appeared to be weighted more heavily than the configural information when the two sources of information were in competition. These data have led to the formulation of a perceptual-cognitive information integration model of unit formation in infants (Needham & Kaufman, 1997). In this model, infants are believed to integrate different kinds of information into a coherent representation of a given stimulus display. The various kinds of information form a kind of checklist hierarchy with more "certain" physical information at the top and considered before more "probabilistic" configural information that is located at a lower level.

Finding Your Confidence

Finding Your Confidence

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