Ultimate Psychology Guide
Perception and experience
The question whether the perceptual set that makes perception is developed over time or not is a question that has been asked a long time ago in the context of nature vs nurture. And the best way to study that is by studying babies, since they have limited experience.
There are different ways to study perception with babies. However the most important ways are preferential looking, habituation and visual cliff.
Preferential looking is a method that was presented by Fantz. In this method two different stimuli are presented side by side and the amount of time spent looking at each stimuli is recorded. The stimuli looked at the longest is the preferred stimuli. Fantz found that even very young infants prefer to look at relatively complex and socially relevant stimuli.
Habituation on the other hand present the idea that when a new stimulus is presented to a child he will turn toward it. However if he looks at it for a long time his interest will decrease and he will no longer pay attention to it. At this point if you present a child with another stimulus and he stays indifferent with it; it means that the child did not perceive the difference between the two stimuli.
These two methods study perception in a broad manner. But the method that studies depth perception specifically is the visual cliff. This interesting method was developed in the early 1960s by Eleanor Gibson and Richard walk. This method is used to assess whether or not an infant is able to perceive depth. The visual cliff is a table set up to create the illusion that the table has a hole in the middle of it. In the experiment the child is placed on one side of the table and the mother is on the other side of the table. The result of this experiment shows that infants will not attempt to cross that cliff to get to their mothers. Therefore we can infer that even at a young age "six months" children can perceive the cliff which proves the existence of depth perception since childhood. An interesting idea is the fact that when infants younger than six months experience the visual cliff they go towards their mothers and do not stop. This might show that the infants at this age do not perceive the cliff. However the record of their heart beats shows that the heart beats increase when they pass through the cliff. Hence the infants at this age perceive the cliff but there need to be with their mothers beats it.