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Psychological Theories on Visual Cliff - Dictionary of Arguments
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Visual Cliff/psychological theories: early findings of Gibson and Walk concluded that visual experience is not
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necessary for the development of depth discrimination (Walk et al., 1957)(1) and that animals are prepared to discriminate depth and avoid a drop-off as soon as they are independently mobile, even if locomotion begins at birth as in precocial chicks, kids, and lambs (Gibson & Walk, 1960)(2).
However, later studies revealed a more complicated story. Dark-reared rats avoided the deep side of the visual cliff upon emerging from the dark at 27 and 90 days, suggesting that perception of depth at an edge develops without visual experience.
But at 140 or 300 days, depth discrimination was absent, suggesting that long-term deprivation caused permanent deficits (Nealey & Riley, 1964(3); Walk, Trychin, & Karmel, 1965)(4).
For some species, the visual experience that comes with self-produced locomotion is necessary. Unlike rats, kittens dark-reared for 26 days showed no preference for the shallow side.
But they caught up to their light-reared peers by the end of a week (Gibson & Walk, 1960(2); Walk, 1966(5); Walk & Gibson, 1961(6)). Dark-reared kittens with three hours of daily exposure to light while actively locomoting in a “kitty carousel” acquired normal depth perception after ten days of training (Held & Hein, 1963)(7).
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Kittens and rabbit pups require about a month of locomotor experience in the light before showing consistent avoidance of the deep side (Walk, 1966(5); Walk & Gibson, 1961)(6).
Infant rhesus monkeys could be coaxed over the deep side before 2 weeks of age, but not a week or two later (Walk & Gibson, 1961)(6).
Rats showed smooth psychometric functions, with increased avoidance of the deep side as the drop-off increased in two-inch increments from 4 to 14 inches beneath the starting board (Walk & Gibson, 1961)(6). Similarly, avoidance increased in human infants as the drop-off increased from 10 to 40 inches (Walk, 1966)(5).
What information is used to specify the apparent drop-off? Visible texture is necessary. With textureless grey paper beneath both sides of the cliff, rats crossed indiscriminately (Walk & Gibson, 1961)(6) and 32% to 50% of human infants crossed the deep side regardless of whether the paper was 10 or 40 inches below the glass (Walk, 1966)(5).
Binocular disparity is not crucial. Monocular rats and chicks and infants wearing an eye patch avoided the deep side at the same rates as those that had both eyes available (Lore & Sawatski, 1969(8); Schiffman & Walk, 1963(9); Trychin & Walk, 1964(10); Walk, 1968b(11); Walk & Dodge, 1962(12)).
Depth perception/human infants: [The] use of the visual cliff as a means for studying depth perception in human infants was short-lived. As Gibson (1969)(13) pointed out, many other behaviors develop earlier than locomotion (e.g., reaching and looking) and can be used to assess visual depth perception long before crawling onset (Yonas & Granrud, 1985)(14). Indeed, looking time methods reveal that even newborns are sensitive to visual information for depth (Slater, Mattock, & Brown, 1990)(15). >Risk perception/Gibson.
1. Walk, R. D., Gibson, E. J., & Tighe, T. J. (1957). Behavior of light- and dark-reared rats on a visual cliff. Science, 126, 80–81.
2. Gibson, E. J., & Walk, R. D. (1960). The “visual cliff.” Scientific American, 202, 64–71.
3. Nealey, S. M., & Riley, D. A. (1964). Loss and recovery of discrimination of visual depth in dark-reared rats. The American Journal of Psychology, 76, 329–332.
4. Walk, R. D., Trychin, S., & Karmel, B. Z. (1965). Depth perception in the dark-reared rat as a function of time in the dark. Psychonomic Science, 3, 9–10.
5. Walk, R. D. (1966). The development of depth perception in animals and human infants. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 31, 5 (Serial No. 107).
6. Walk, R. D., & Gibson, E. J. (1961). A comparative and analytical study of visual depth perception. Psychological Monographs, 75, 15 (Whole No. 519).
7. Held, R., & Hein, A. (1963). Movement-produced stimulation in the development of visually guided behavior. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 56, 872–876.
8. Lore, R., & Sawatski, D. (1969). Performance of binocular and monocular infant rats on the visual cliff. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 67, 177–181.
9. Schiffman, H. R., & Walk, R. D. (1963). Behavior on the visual cliff of monocular as compared with binocular chicks. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 6, 1064–1068.
10. Trychin, S., & Walk, R. D. (1964). A study of the depth perception of monocular hooded rats on the visual cliff. Psychonomic Science, 1, 53–54.
11. Walk, R. D. (1968b). Monocular compared to binocular depth perception in human infants. Science, 162, 473–475.
12. Walk, R. D., & Dodge, S. H. (1962). Visual depth perception of a 10-month-old monocular human infant. Science, 137, 529–530.
13. Gibson, E. J. (1969). Principles of perceptual learning and development. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts.
14. Yonas, A., & Granrud, C. E. (1985). Reaching as a measure of infants’ spatial perception. In G. Gottlieb & N. A. Krasnegor (Eds), Measurement of audition and vision in the first year of postnatal life: A methodological overview (pp. 301–322). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
15. Slater, A., Mattock, A., & Brown, E. (1990). Size constancy at birth: Newborn infants’ responses to retinal and real size. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 49,314–322.
Karen E. Adolph and Kari S. Kretch, “Infants on the Edge. Beyond the Visual Cliff” in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012
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