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Abstract

We propose an alternative to the conventional view that limitations on infant functioning are handicaps to be overcome. According to our view, limitations, particularly of the sensory systems, produce adaptive advantages for infants by facilitating perceptual organization. During embryogenesis, developmental rates of sensory systems are unequal so that onset of functioning is sequential. We argue that such differential onset results in relative independence among emerging systems, thereby reducing competition which helps regulate subsequent neurogenesis and functioning. In addition to prenatal effects, neonatal sensory limitations are discussed as a major source of perceptual organization. Limitations reduce the amount of information with which the infant must contend and promote temporal contiguity between multimodal attributes of a stimulus. Although we focus on human perceptual development, our view is a broadly based comparative one. Thus, other organisms have evolved means of restricting sensory input, and evidence is cited suggesting the importance of this reduced input in regulating normal perceptual development.