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Infants can organise visual information at just four months

ness, shape, and proximity. To take part in the visual grouping experiments, each baby was placed in a car seat facing a screen onto which images were projected. Overhead cameras recorded how long each infant looked at images on the screen. The infants were shown an array where the stimuli were arranged by similarity in either horizontal lines or vertical columns. For example, for grouping by shape, an array of horizontal lines (or vertical columns) made up of squares and circles was used, constructed so that shape discrimination would be needed to 'see' lines or columns in the array. To test if visual grouping had occurred, images of plain bars of horizontal lines and vertical columns were then shown. If the infants looked for a longer time at either the line or column bars on average, this would indicate an effect of the earlier lines or columns made up of squares and circles, indicating grouping.

The results showed that grouping by brightness emerges first: it was observed at two months, in line with previous observations that this ability is present in newborn babies. At four months, two further grouping abilities emerged: grouping by shape and by proximity. Proximity grouping had not been tested in infants prior to this research, and grouping by shape had previously been seen only at six or seven months.

Dr Farran argues that it's important to understand the development of low-level processes such as attention from early on in order to understand how higher-level processes such as object recognition ?which requires grouping by several different visual characteristics ?develop. But the researchers also have a further interest: having established this pattern of development in normal infants, they intend to turn their attention to what happens in infants affected by developmental disorders. The research group already has a new ESRC-funded project under way with Williams syndrome infants ?a condition where attention and visual perception are parti
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Source:Economic & Social Research Council


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