Psychology

Socialized Learning

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Science  12 Sep 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5895, pp. 1421
DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5895.1421c

The ventral and dorsal neural streams that mediate the visual processing of objects have been described as specializing in what and where, respectively; that is, information about object identity flows through a different channel than that about object location. A related distinction applies to object perception for the purpose of action (where my car is parked) as contrasted with the purpose of recognition (my car is green). Yoon et al. demonstrate that pre-verbal infants (9 months old) form object representations that exhibit a similar dissociation between location and identity—and that the mode of information transmittal dictates the channel of reception. Introducing an explicitly social teaching context by having an actor point to an object while speaking to the infant biased the infant to remember the object's features such that a subsequent presentation of the same object at a second location did not evoke surprise (as assessed by looking time), whereas displaying a new object at the original location did. Conversely, reaching toward an object while verbalizing in an impersonal fashion primed the retention of where information rather than what. Adults, of course, have no difficulty in retaining and retrieving both types of representations, but the nascent neural processing capacities of infants appear to be influenced by social context as well as visual fundamentals. — GJC

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 13690 (2008).

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