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How Does Learning Impact Development in Infancy? The Case of Perceptual Organization


should be sent to Ramesh S. Bhatt, Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0044. E-mail:


Pattern perception and organization are critical functions of the visual cognition system. Many organizational processes are available early in life, such that infants as young 3 months of age are able to readily utilize a variety of cues to organize visual patterns. However, other processes are not readily evident in young infants, and their development involves perceptual learning. We describe a theoretical framework that addresses perceptual learning in infancy and the manner in which it affects visual organization and development. It identifies five kinds of experiences that induce learning, and suggests that they work via attentional and unitization mechanisms to modify visual organization. In addition, the framework proposes that this kind of learning is abstract, domain general, functional at different ages in a qualitatively similar manner, and has a long-term impact on development through a memory reactivation process. Although most models of development assume that experience is fundamental to development, very little is actually known about the process by which experience affects development. The proposed framework is an attempt to account for this process in the domain of perception.

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