Differentiation Theory of Perceptual Development - Essay Sample

Published: 2019-10-16
Differentiation Theory of Perceptual Development - Essay Sample
Categories:  Learning Development
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 2189 words
19 min read

Gibson's theory is considered as a differentiation view of development since it is in contrast to the opinion that states that the senses are usually separated at birth. Eleanor Gibson proposition is that the senses are all unified at birth, and the perceptual development is characterized as a gradual process of differentiating increasingly finer levels of sensory stimulation (Gibson, 1961). Infants, therefore, have detected many features that have unified their multimodal events right from the time that they are born. After birth, they start to learn and perceive more subtle differences and more complex objects and activities by the help of their senses. The senses help them to interact with their surroundings and their environment.

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In the case where a child had a bad experience with an object let say water, and they were close to drowning, they may never want to go near the water again. Another child ought to be near the water at all time since he or she has not experienced a near drowning incident (Gibson, 1973). The use of an experiment known as Visual Cliff is used to determine how the infants develop the sense of perception. It can reveal whether the perception of that child was gained during birth or through the experience, perception can be improved.

Gibson focuses on differentiation set her theory apart from the traditional account whereby she claimed that perception requires more than the obtainable sensory stimulation (Gibson, 1973). In that account, perceptual learning is a process of learning to construct, supplement, infer, hypothesize, interpret, organize, associate and enrich impoverished input.

Gibson brought a new outlook on perception and developed research whereby the environment was more scrutinized in the framework of learning. Perception can be significant since it makes people adapt to the environment right from birth. Gibson claimed that children learn to distinguish the environment and noting the different layouts, object and events. (Gibson & Gibson, 1955). Human are believed to learn through need. Infants are like the hunter-gatherers who gather the information with the purpose to live and steer the world. Gibson had a belief that allowed the environment to be seen as it offers direct perception. A robust is found between the environment Providence and the childs goals, abilities and actions.

Gibson carried out an experiment whereby two categories of babies that could crawl and those that could walk were put on a walk away of a height of 4 feet. Their mothers waited for them on the walkway end smiling at their children. The first situation had a surface that was rigid and was enclosed with fabric allowing the babies to either crawl or walk with ease (Gibson & Gibson, 1955). The other situation contained a walkway with fabric that was patterned on top with a waterbed that was affordable for crawling only. Gibson noted that the infants that could walk used up some time to look into the surface of the waterbed more than the other surface that was rigid before making a decision on what technique they would settle to. The children who could crawl did not note the difference like the others babies did. The two surfaces acted as affordance and a chance for the children to develop perception and how to adapt exist in their surroundings.

Visual Perception Theory

A human is a being who is guided by five basic senses. We evaluate objects visually, hear sounds, and can taste or smell something. Even a simple touch can tell a lot about a particular surface or structure. That is why perception is a combination of many factors that represent a certain object in our brain.

One of the main questions for modern scientists is how the brain processes the information received from the physical world and what the significance of perception for humans and animals is. Scientists are divided into several camps because some consider perception to be a secondary factor, and innate instincts, the memory of generations, or patterns play a primary role.

There is a long-standing controversy between the adherents of bottom-up processing and top-down processing. Both camps have strong arguments, and their consideration is the primary task for every researcher. For example, Richard Gregory argued that perception is a product of prior experience. In other words, a person is a blank sheet of paper and is unable to distinguish and identify many things from birth. This approach to identifying truth is extremely important, as a comprehensive analysis can help to capture important patterns.

Only accumulated knowledge and prior experience can help identify certain patterns and obtain plausible information through the perception of the surrounding world. In other words, the more we know about something, the more detailed and accurate the result of the analysis of something will be. These are the main postulates on which top-down processing is based.

According to Eleanor and James Gibson's bottom-up processing, a person or animal can initially perceive any information without the need for interpretation or prior experience. In other words, our eyes perceive objects, space, and various factors as objectively as possible and do not need preliminary experience. Thus, in part, this theory emphasizes the richness of information, regardless of what sources we use for this.

At the same time, Gregory's theory has more logical concepts since it is difficult for a person to perceive the world objectively without some prior experience. Gibson believed that there is an adequate stimulus pattern or stimulus of a higher order for each image of perception, which should not be understood simplistically. It is not a one-dimensional and static flow of physical energy that hits the receptor surface.

In real life, there are no separate sensations that make more complex structures. In reality, around us, there are no point sources of light, isolated stimuli, or static stimulus influences. Gibson drew attention to the fact that most books on the physiology of sensory systems and the psychology of perception show drawings in which light reflected from an object hits the retina in a straight line.

This is an obvious simplification of the real stimulus situation. From the point of view of the environmental optics developed by Gibson, things are much more complicated. The retina receives many rays of light, reflected many times from any surface. Instead of the familiar term "stimulus," the concept of optical information was introduced as a process contained in the surrounding optical structure. The body has to deal with light that converges from all directions and has different intensities.

The term "information" carries a special meaning in its concept. This is not something that is transmitted in the form of energy to the receptor but extracted by the observer in the process of perceptual activity from the ambient optical order. Gibson's approach to understanding what is directly involved in the living act of perception is extremely interesting and productive. Gibson meant that perception is an active process of looking, hearing, touching, and smelling.

The perceiving system has organs; the sense organs have receptors. The system can navigate, explore, survey, adjust, optimize, extract data, while the senses cannot do this. Thus, the fundamental concepts that describe the work of the perceiving system are the organs and their tuning, built into the hierarchical system of mutual subordination.

At the lowest level of perception, an organ can be formed by the lens, pupil, eyeball, and retina. Further, the eye with the oculomotor muscles can be included in it. They constitute an organ that is both stable and mobile at the same time. When perceiving an object moving in space, eyes and a head are included in the new organ; this organ can extract more comprehensive information. All the movements mentioned above of the structural components of each of the organs of perception serve to extract a certain type of information. Therefore, it is very important that Gibson emphasized effective mechanisms in the organ of perception.

When characterizing the perceiving system, the specificity of its work directly depends on the characteristics and properties of objects in the external world. In the process of perception, the system adjusts to the logic of the objective world, to the possibility of its change. In the ecological theory of visual perception, one of the central places is occupied by the concept of invariants. Gibson viewed perception as an active process of constant change in the flow of optical information due to the observer's movement, his/her eyes, or the movement of objects around us in space.

A perceptual invariant is a complex process distinguished in the structure of optical information. It is expressed that it remains unchanged regardless of the changes that occur in the ambient optical structure when the position of environmental objects changes. Thus, this so-called perceptual transformation invariant is set objectively and unambiguously by a regular change in the optical structure. Developers of dynamic computer games often use this effect to simulate the perception of motion.

The Relevance of the Theory in the Modern World

We easily compare the height of trees or telegraph poles standing along the road because the ratio of the height of each object to the distance between its base and the horizon line is invariant at any range from the observer. Thus, some objects are perceived to be the same since the ratio in which the horizon line divides their height has not changed in the structure of optical information. Consequently, perception is not the result of the enrichment of experience or the enrichment of meager sensory stimulation. Instead, it’s the extraction of certain structures from current information directly.

Gibson's ecological theory consists of the concept of possibilities, which correlates the world around us with the peculiarities of our perception. For example, if the light contains information for the perception of surfaces, perhaps there is also information for possibilities.

The concept used by a person originates from the concept of "valence" from Gestalt psychology, which emphasized the biased, subjective nature of the perceived object for a person, the connection with his/her present state. But unlike valence, the concept of possibility is free from the needs of the observer. It is a stimulus invariant, always objectively exists, always available for perception.

We rarely notice that parts of our body are constantly present in the field of view: part of the nose, cheeks, lips, arms, or legs. Gibson emphasized that the experience of one's self is by no means a philosophical abstraction. On the contrary, there is a corresponding visual basis for this situation. Since parts of our body are constantly included in the optical structure, limited by our field of view, during the most varied movements of a person, whether it is the movement of the head, movement of the limbs, or the movement of the whole body, corresponding disturbances caused by these movements are introduced into it.

These changes in the structure of the optical order are information about our movements in space. By analogy with kinesthetic sensations from muscles, tendons, and joints, the extraction of this optical information can be called visual kinesthesia. We never perceive such changes in the optical structure as the movements of the objects around us. Instead, we experience them as kinesthesia or the movements of our bodies.

This is why you shouldn't think of Gibson's ecological theory as a collection of subjective factors. While creatures need prior experience to identify certain objects or landscapes, the concept of ecological fixation can explain many of the phenomena and reactions of humans and animals. However, bottom-up processing and top-down processing can be interesting for finding a compromise theory that could effectively use the arguments of either side.

A structural approach to world perception is the key to understanding what factors help a person or an animal navigate space and transform information from the outside world into brain impulses. Perception is an adaptive ability that can change depending on external factors. This is why the learning process never ends for people of any age.

One of the critical elements of any theory of perception is implementing all opinions and forming an accurate consensus. Data analysis is possible thanks to a comprehensive set of factors. That is why bias in terms of the accuracy of a theory is only a specific judgment that is not supported by facts. Critical assessment of experiments and direct examples is an important factor that can confirm the correctness of any theory.

Perception is not only on images and sensation; it is also of space, time and places. Gibson viewed perceptual learning as a way that children learn to discriminate an object considering their discrete features or the characteristics (Gibson, 1961). At more complicated situation Gibson saw perceptual learning as a way of development and perceiving what is existing. Gibson studies children and the way they interact with the environment and conclude that perception is what makes cognition be possible. Perceptual learning never ends what changes is what we learn.


Gibson, E. (1961). Association and differentiation in perceptual learning. Acta Psychologica, 19, 325-326. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0001-6918(61)80130-3

Gibson, E. (1973). Principles of Perceptual Learning and Development. Leonardo, 6(2), 190. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1572721

Gibson, J. & Gibson, E. (1955). PERCEPTUAL LEARNING: DIFFERENTIATION OR ENRICHMENT?. Psychological Review, 62(1), 32-41. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0048826

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