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Title: Top-Down Visual Perception in Infancy: The Case of the Rubin's Vase
Authors: Fernandez, Fernanda
Advisors: Emberson, Lauren L.
Department: Neuroscience
Class Year: 2019
Abstract: The study of perception in infancy is essential to understand the development of human perceptual systems. Prior studies have shown that sensory experience determines proper perceptual development. The dominant view assumes such experience-based development as a bottom-up process, where perceptual development passively reflects sensory experience without involvement of high cognitive systems. By contrast, a top-down model of perceptual development emphasizes the role of higher cognitive systems, which are actively applied to influence perception. Recent neuroimaging studies provide supportive evidence for the top-down developmental view. However, it is unclear whether this neural evidence is translatable to perception changes behaviorally. The current study investigated top-down modulation of visual perception in infants behaviorally. We examined whether a learning experience could modulate infants’ visual perception of an ambiguous Rubin’s vase (RV). Seven to 11-month-old infants learned to associate one tone with unambiguous faces and another tone with unambiguous vases. By tracking infants’ eye movements, we examined whether infants could use the predictive tones to bias their perception of an ambiguous RV as faces or a vase. We found that the face tone led to significantly larger horizontal saccade distance than the vase tone when the same ambiguous RV was presented. A similar horizontal saccade pattern was found when infants viewed unambiguous face and vase images. These results indicate that learning directly modulated infants’ perception of the ambiguous RV via top-down mechanisms. This finding corroborates the recent neural evidence and suggests that top-down mechanisms are available to translate experiences into perceptual changes early in life.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Neuroscience, 2017-2019

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