Flashcards in Baillargeon's Explanation Of Infant Abilities Deck (15):
Earlier research on babies’/children’s knowledge of the physical world:
-Piaget believed that babies in the sensori-motor stage are not aware that objects still exist after their removed from their view based on the finding that they completely lost interest in the object once it had been removed from their view.
However, psychologists became critical of Piaget’s research, by saying that it is possible for younger babies to not pursue the hidden object because they do not have the motor skills or their selective attention is not developed enough yet to stop themselves from becoming distracted.
What did Baillargeon develop?
The violation of expectation method to investigate infant understanding of the physical world
What is Violation of expectation research?
An approach to investigating infant knowledge of the world.
The idea is that if children understand how the physical world operates then they will expect certain things to happen in particular situations. If these do not occur and children react accordingly, this suggests that they have an intact knowledge of the world.
Procedure of Violation of Expectations:
Baillargeon et al.showed 24 infants, aged 5-6 months, a tall and a short rabbit pass behind a screen with a window.
In the possible condition the rabbit can be seen passing the window but the short one cannot. In the impossible condition neither rabbit appeared at the window.
Findings of VOE:
The infants looked on average 33.07 seconds at the impossible event compared to 25.11 seconds in the possible condition. The researchers thought this meant that the babies were surprised at the impossible condition and for them to be surprised it must mean that they were expecting the tall rabbit to appear above the screen, demonstrating an understanding of object permanence.
What happens in a typical VOE experiment?
Infants see 2 test events: an expected event, which is consistent with the expectation examined in the experiment, and an unexpected event, which violates this expectation.
VOE method is used to test object permanence.
Baillargeon’s theory of infant physical reasoning:
She proposes that humans are born with a physical reasoning system (or PRS).
This means we are born with a primitive awareness of the physical properties of the world and this becomes more sophisticated as we learn from experience.
One understanding of the world of which we have a crude understanding of is object persistence (same idea as Piaget’s object permanence) that an object remains in existence and does not spontaneously alter in structure.
In the first few weeks of life infants begin to identify event categories. What does this mean? (Part of physical reasoning)
Each event category corresponds to one way in which objects interact e.g. occlusion events take place when one object blocks the view or another.
So because a child is born with a basic understanding of object persistence...
... they quickly learn that one object can block their view of another (by the time they are tested in the carrot experiment, they know the tall carrot should appear at the window)
Why does the ‘impossible’ event capture their attention?
Because physical reasoning system readies them to take notice of new events that might develop their understanding of the world.
How are Piaget and Baillargeon different?
Baillargeon suggests that infants are primarily equipped with mechanism to interpret and learn from experience, calling this the PRS.
This suggests that infants are born with innate mechanisms that give them a head start, whilst Piaget suggested that everything is learned through interaction - there are no innate mechanisms to assist with this
Is the VOE a better test for object permanence than Piaget’s findings?
-Piaget assumed that when a baby shifted attention away from an out of sight object, that this meant the child no longer knew it existed (BUT THE CHILD MAY HAVE SHIFTED ATTENTION BECAUSE IT LOST INTEREST)
-the VOE eliminates this confounding variable because simply losing interest in an object would not explain findings that children look for longer at impossible events
-means VOE method has better validity than some alternatives
AO3 weaknesses of VOE:
Why might the VOE not be a valid way of investigating infants’ understanding of the physical world?
It is hard to judge what an infant understands.
Baillargeon’s research shows that infants appear to look for longer at scenes that break physical laws like object permanence.
HOWEVER, what VOE experiments show is that babies behave as we might expect them to if they understood the physical world.
AO3 weaknesses of VOE:
What are the 2 problems with the researchers expecting the babies to do something if they understood the physical world?
-we are guessing how a baby might behave when confronted with VOE. They might not actually look at impossible events for longer than possible events ( we are operationalising surprise as the length of time the baby looks at the VOE without any evidence.)
-there are many reasons why a baby would look at the impossible event more than the possible one and the reasons may have nothing to do with VOE.