Nature and Nature in Cognitive Development Essay

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Nature and Nature in Cognitive Development

Why are both nature and nurture important in perceptual development? How do both help a baby’s brain and sensory organs to develop?  The question of whether nature or nurture is more important in terms of perceptual development has bee long debated. In general, there are two theories that explain how humans develop these perceptions. The Nativists claim that our brains are built or hardwired to recognize certain stimuli by both design and construction. In contrast, an Empiricist would say that we learn through experience how to perceive things.

There was an experiment done by Nativist researchers that sought to determine how very young mammals are able to perceive. The data concluded that early infants were able to perceive quite a lot before they really had a chance to learn anything. Gibson and Walk’s the “visual cliff” experiment was one such experiment, in this test both young animals and 6 month old human infants were taken to a side of a visual cliff, the test subjects would avoid the clearly deep drop. This indicated that children can perceive visual depth and that visual depth dominates even touch information.

Additionally, studies have been done that show babies can recognize faces and that they often prefer the visual stimulation of carton faces as opposed to the same features arranged at random. In other tests it was shown that babies can also recognize whether or not and object is coming directly at their face or not. These experiments show that even the undeveloped infant brain has considerable capacity for perceptual capabilities.

In contrast, several Empiricists experiments have been done as well. In one such study, scientists sought to determine the effects of depriving developing animals from perceptual stimulations. These tests have consistently shown that the longer the subject is deprived, the more severe the consequences. For example, humans are sometimes born without sight, due to a clouded cornea. Later in life some elect to have surgery to repair this clouded cornea. The result is sight, these people can see but they cannot perceive what it is that they see. As time goes on they slowly learn to distinguish one object from another, but this is however quite easily interrupted. Often changing an objects position or context is quite enough to slow down or prevent recognition.

To conclude, although some argue that perception is due to nature, while others argue for nurture, it may in fact be that the two factors are interdependent and rely on each other. Support for this idea comes from an experiment that studied rats and found that those raised in a perceptually restricted environment had smaller brain development than those raised in an enriched environment, suggesting that while we are born with innate capabilities we need the environment to ensure we develop our abilities to perceive well. The perceptual capabilities we have at birth must be strengthened continuously through perceptual stimulation, furthermore, it would seem that perception in general follows the use it or lose it principle. Just as unused muscles become week, so to do our senses if left unused. Nature and nurture are both essential to health y perceptual development; stimulation begins in the womb and quickly follows all the way through adulthood.


. “Nature and Nurture in Perceptual Development.” . Web. 11 Feb 2013. <>. . “Experiencing Sensation and Perception.” . Web. 11 Feb 2013. < 15.pdf>. Arterberry, M. “Perceptual Development.” . Colby College. Web. 11 Feb 2013. < development.pdf>.

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