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Semin Perinatol. 1989 Dec;13(6):437-49.

Investigations of learning processes in infants.

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Yale Child Study Center, Yale University, New Haven, CT.


This brief review has covered three major areas: what kinds of information can infants encode in the first 6 to 9 months and what methods are available to measure their responses; the status of memory functions in infancy; and current models of synaptogenesis, a process likely underlying the emerging cognitive processes during infancy. We can conclude that infants are capable of learning even from the first hours after birth and show a rapid increase in their capacity to recall information and use it for further learning. Furthermore, neurobiologic models of development are beginning to define a more detailed picture of crucial phases in the first months for learning processes. There are four notable omissions in the above points and in the material covered in this review. Mentioning these in this summary serves to caution the reader that there is much more to consider, and to point to other active areas of investigation of infants' cognitive capacities. These points also serve as a partial response to the questions asked in the beginning of the paper about how far we have yet to go in our understanding of infants' learning and about what may be the observational blind spots for our generation of infancy investigators. First, we have not discussed what drives learning--why infants seek actively to acquire information and seem motivated to retain that information for later use? Lipsitt points out that much of early infant behavior is based on positive and negative responses to diverse stimuli of varying degrees of attractiveness, and that the "hedonic overtones," or the amount of pleasure, involved in a stimulus situation, certainly contribute to the infant's response. Until recently, studies of social and affective development have been essentially separate from studies of cognition. Currently, the field of "social cognition" symbolizes the link between studies of basic cognitive processes and social development.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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