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Monogr Soc Res Child Dev. 2004;69(2):vii, 1-102.

Origins and early development of human body knowledge.

Author information

1
Early Cognitive Development Unit, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. vps@psy.uq.edu.au

Abstract

As a knowable object, the human body is highly complex. Evidence from several converging lines of research, including psychological studies, neuroimaging and clinical neuropsychology, indicates that human body knowledge is widely distributed in the adult brain, and is instantiated in at least three partially independent levels of representation. Sensorimotor body knowledge is responsible for on-line control and movement of one's own body and may also contribute to the perception of others' moving bodies; visuo-spatial body knowledge specifies detailed structural descriptions of the spatial attributes of the human body; and lexical-semantic body knowledge contains language-based knowledge about the human body. In the first chapter of this Monograph, we outline the evidence for these three hypothesized levels of human body knowledge, then review relevant literature on infants' and young children's human body knowledge in terms of the three-level framework. In Chapters II and III, we report two complimentary series of studies that specifically investigate the emergence of visuo-spatial body knowledge in infancy. Our technique is to compare infants'responses to typical and scrambled human bodies, in order to evaluate when and how infants acquire knowledge about the canonical spatial layout of the human body. Data from a series of visual habituation studies indicate that infants first discriminate scrambled from typical human body picture sat 15 to 18 months of age. Data from object examination studies similarly indicate that infants are sensitive to violations of three-dimensional human body stimuli starting at 15-18 months of age. The overall pattern of data supports several conclusions about the early development of human body knowledge: (a) detailed visuo-spatial knowledge about the human body is first evident in the second year of life, (b) visuo-spatial knowledge of human faces and human bodies are at least partially independent in infancy and (c) infants' initial visuo-spatial human body representations appear to be highly schematic, becoming more detailed and specific with development. In the final chapter, we explore these conclusions and discuss how levels of body knowledge may interact in early development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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