Crically Evaluate the Claim That Infants Have an Innate Knowledge of Object Properties. Use Evidence to Support Your Argument Essay

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Critically evaluate the claim that infants have an innate knowledge of object properties. Use evidence to support your arguments.

Object properties have been systematically associated with the Piagetian approach of cognitive development and in particular the sensorimotor period. Until the 1970’s, Piaget’s influential stance that knowledge of object properties is only learned from around nine months old had not been questioned. However, due to more contemporary studies there have been claims that not only do younger infants exhibit behaviours suggesting that Piaget’s assumptions may underestimate cognitive abilities but some studies have controversially suggested that newborns have shown to have a certain amount of innate knowledge. This
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Despite the first experiment showing that infants at two months old held no preference for the disjointed rod, when the proportion of the box occluding the rods was decreased the two month olds showed a preference for the broken rod display over the complete rod display, therefore suggesting that there may be an innate low level representation of object properties (Kellman & Spelke, 1983). This and further studies (Kamawata et al, 1999) lent support to Johnson’s (1995) threshold model where visual information must match the perceptual abilities of infants in order to show knowledge of continuous object properties along with attending abilities.

However, some researchers take on a more reserved view, giving potential alternative explanations for the innate knowledge of object properties. For example, following on from certain studies using darkness to hide objects resulting in evidence that infants search in the darkness earlier than they search for objects hidden by an occluder (Bowers and Wishart, 1972), Shinskey and Munakata (2003) conducted a study comparing the two conditions. Infants were given toy and no-toy trials in both the darkness and the occluder (a cloth) conditions. Results support the notion that infants are more sensitive to searching for objects in darkness compared to objects hidden by an occluder. Researchers gave three potential explanations for this dissociation. Firstly, a means-end explanation was given, stating