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Baillargeon Explanation of Early Infant Abilities

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Baillargeon Explanation of Early Infant Abilities

This article will describe and evaluate Baillargeon’s explanation of early infant abilities and explain the violation of expectation paradigm, covering its examples and evaluations.

But before we dive into that, let us recap the definition of cognition and development in psychology:

  • Cognition and development in psychology look into how an infant develops language, thinking, and reasoning. It also looks into how an infant processes new information understands, and acquires information into the world.

  • Theories and research around cognition and development in psychology can help understand infant abilities and apply this practice, i.e., into schools, parenting, and detecting developmental issues.

What is Baillargeon’s explanation of early infant abilities?

Baillargeon believes infants are born with a physical reasoning system (PRS), a basic ability to process the concept of the physical world without any contributions from the environment. Baillargeon believes humans are born with this hard-wired ability which continues to develop over time.

Baillargeon refers to an infant’s understanding of the physical world as physical reasoning or object performance. From a few weeks of age, an infant has physical reasoning or object performance, recognising that an object exists even though it is not in sight.

Baillargeon Explanation of Early Infant Abilities Innate object performance StudySmarterInnate object performance in infants, Pixabay

Baillargeon suggests that an infant’s understanding of the physical world and object knowledge is better than initially thought by other researchers such as Piaget.

Baillargeon developed ways of measuring early infant abilities by creating research methods to measure cognitive abilities in infants. Young infants are limited in expressing their thoughts or understandings, which can limit understanding of abilities in younger infants. Baillargeon aimed to address this and has contributed to understanding early infant abilities.

Strengths of Baillargeon’s explanation of early infant abilities

  • Many studies have replicated findings of Baillargeon’s findings. For example, studies have replicated findings that infants look longer at unexpected events, which indicate surprise and expectation to see objects. Such research aligns with Baillargeon’s belief that infants can understand concepts of an object existing without being present.

  • Baillargeon is credited with finding a way to measure infant ability (the time they spend looking at an event). In contrast, Piaget believed that infants’ looking away in his studies indicated the infant no longer knew an object existed and did not consider factors such as having lost attention.

  • Baillargeon believes that humans are born with physical reasoning abilities, which continue to develop over time. This belief is also consistent with what is known about other infant abilities, such as distance perception, also thought to be innate but developed over time.

Criticisms of Baillargeon’s explanation of early infant abilities

  • A criticism of this is that an assumption is made about infant abilities in the physical world. Infants looking at the event where the object did not appear may not be a strong measure that the infants were expecting to see the object. Therefore, an infant’s abilities in the physical world can be considered difficult to measure.
  • Baillargeon’s explanation states that infants were born with the ability to process the concept of the physical world. However, research on newborns abilities in the physical world is limited, thus questioning the theory’s credibility.
  • The explanation ignores the role of the environment in an infant’s development. Baillargeon’s explanation does not consider factors such as the frequency with which an infant is exposed to various objects, how much he is moved, and parental style.
  • The explanation contrasts with Piaget’s explanation of early infant abilities. Piaget believed that young infants are not aware that objects exist once they have left the visual field.

Conclusion on Baillargeons explanation of early infant abilities

In conclusion, Baillargeon’s explanation of early infant abilities has contributed towards developmental psychology and has been considered a credible theory by some psychologists. Despite criticisms of research and the theory, Baillargeon nonetheless invented research methods to measure early infant abilities and replicated her findings repeatedly.

Violation of expectation paradigm

Baillargeon introduced a concept referred to as the violation of expectation method to discover more about an infant’s understanding of the physical world.

The violation of the expectation paradigm looks at the element of surprise as a way of measuring infant expectation and understanding.

Violation of expectation meaning

In the violation of expectation research Baillargeon initially conducted, infants witness an event and are then exposed either to a possible or impossible event. They are measured on the time looking at the event to indicate the level of surprise and expectation.

Baillargeon Explanation of Early Infant Abilities Violation of expectation paradigm StudySmarterSurprise at unexpected events measured by the length of time looking at the event, Pixabay

Violation of expectation example

Baillargeon and Graber experimented to test the paradigm involving a possible and impossible event. Infants were recorded on the amount of time they looked at the possible and impossible events.

  • Possible event: The tall rabbit can be seen passing behind the window because the rabbit is tall enough. The short rabbit cannot be seen passing because it is not tall enough. Infants looked at this event for an average of 25.11 seconds.

  • Impossible event: Neither rabbit passed the window. Infants looked at this event for an average of 33.07 seconds.

Findings showed that infants looked at the unexpected event for a longer time, indicating that the infants expected to see the rabbits even when not in sight. This demonstrates object performance and knowledge of the physical world, as they can understand that an object exists outside of the visual field.

Other research on the violation of expectation has also replicated these findings using alternative possible vs impossible events, such as the drawbridge experiment.

Violation of expectation criticisms

  • 11 out of 15 studies supporting Baillargeon’s explanation of early infant ability (violation of expectation paradigm) Baillargeon conducted herself and former students. This aspect questions potential researcher bias, i.e. to what extent Baillargeon links the findings to her beliefs on innate validity.

  • This issue also highlights the lack of supporting external research conducted on Baillargeon’s violation of expectation paradigm. Rearchers Bogartz, Shinskey and Schilling (2000) found that infants did not look longer at the unexpected event for longer when replicating the violation of expectation.

  • Other psychologists have criticised the theory, such as Schoner and Thelen. They argued that there might be several interfering factors within the research studies as to why infants may have looked longer at the unexpected event.


Baillargeon Explanation of Early Infant Abilities - Key takeaways

  • Baillargeon’s explains that infants are born with an innate physical reasoning system.

  • Baillargeon invented a way of measuring physical reasoning abilities by measuring how long infants looked at impossible vs unexpected events through the violation of the expectation paradigm.

  • Baillargeon has supported her explanation through replicate findings in her research.

  • The explanation has critical issues, such as the lack of supporting research from other researchers and questions about how valid the amount of time infants spent looking at an event indicates their understanding.

Frequently Asked Questions about Baillargeon Explanation of Early Infant Abilities

Baillargeon explains infants are born with an innate physical reasoning system and have object performance abilities. Baillargeon believes these abilities develop through experience. Baillargeon also believes infants can identify an impossible event related to physical reasoning, demonstrated in the violation of expectation paradigm research.  

Cognition and development in psychology look into how an infant develops language, thinking, and reasoning. It also looks into how an infant processes new information understands, and acquires information into the world. Theories and research around cognition and development in psychology can help understand infant abilities and apply this practice, i.e., into schools, parenting, and detecting developmental issues.

Baillargeon created the violation of the expectation paradigm as a method to measure early infant abilities. The paradigm looks at how surprised an infant is when responding to a possible vs impossible event to measure cognitive abilities such as object performance. 

When expectations are violated,  an unexpected or impossible event surprises the infant. An infant’s surprise is measured by how long they look at the unexpected event. According to the violation of expectation paradigm, infants should look at an event for a longer time when expectations are violated.

An assumption is that when an infant sees a violation of expectation (an unexpected or impossible event), they are surprised because it differs from the expected event, which they understand.

An example of a violation of expectation is an infant first seeing an event, such as a miniature train going through a tunnel. Then, an impossible or unexpected event follows, such as the train not going through the tunnel in the next event, violating the expectations learned in the first event.

Baillargeon conducted several studies around the violation of expectation paradigm. Another study was conducted in 1994, where infants were shown a possible and impossible event. 

 

  • Possible event: two dolls behind a screen.
  • Impossible event: three dolls behind a screen.

 

The infants were first shown two dolls behind a screen. After covering the screen and removing the cover, three dolls were revealed (impossible event) or two dolls (possible event). Infants looked at this event for longer, demonstrating they were surprised to see three dolls. 

Final Baillargeon Explanation of Early Infant Abilities Quiz

Question

How did Baillargeon measure an infant’s ability in the violation of expectation paradigm?

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Answer

Through measuring how long an infant looks at an impossible event compared to a possible event.

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Question

Baillargeon believes infants were born with a physical reasoning system (PRS). True or false?

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Answer

True, Baillargeon believes humans are born with this hard-wired ability.

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Question

In the violation of expectation paradigm research studies, infants were recorded on the amount of time they looked at the possible and impossible events. True or false?

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Answer

True.

Show question

Question

In the violation of expectation paradigm studies, findings showed infants looked at the unexpected event for a longer time. True or false?

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Answer

True. Findings showed infants looked at the unexpected event for a longer time.

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Question

An infant is shown a train passing through a tunnel. The infant is then shown the same event again where a train again passes through a tunnel. Is this a possible or impossible event?

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Answer

A possible event. It was expected the train would pass through the tunnel. 

Show question

Question

Baillargeon created the violation of the expectation paradigm as a method to measure _______.

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Answer

Early infant abilities.

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Question

An infant is shown two dolls behind a screen. The screen is then covered and three dolls are shown. Is this an impossible or possible event?

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Answer

This is an impossible event.

Show question

Question

Researchers Bogartz, Shinskey and Schilling (2000) found that infants looked longer at the unexpected event when replicating the violation of expectation. True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. Infants did not look at the unexpected event for longer.

Show question

Question

Schoner and Thelen argued that there might be several interfering factors within the research studies as to why infants may have looked longer at the unexpected event. True or false? 

Show answer

Answer

True. They argued other factors may have caused the infant to look longer at the unexpected event.

Show question

Question

What does PRS stand for?

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Answer

Physical reasoning system.

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Question

Baillargeon’s explanation ignores the role of the environment. True or false?

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Answer

True. Baillargeon’s explanation does not consider several factors, such as the frequency with which an infant is exposed to various objects, how much he is moved, and parental style.

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Question

How does Baillargeon's explanation of early infant ability contrast with Piaget's explanation?

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Answer

Piaget believed young infants are not aware objects exist once they have left the visual field. Baillargeon believes infants can understand an object exists even when they cannot see it. 

Show question

Question

What reaction does an infant typically have when an expectation is violated?

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Answer

Surprise.

Show question

Question

Which statement is true?


When an expectation is violated:

  1. The infant looks at the event for a longer time. 
  2. The infant looks away.
  3. The infant shows a happy response.

Show answer

Answer

A. The infant looks at the event for a longer time, which Baillargeon demonstrated in her research and others who have replicated similar findings.

Show question

Question

Which are criticisms of Baillargeon's explanation of early infant abilities?

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Answer

All of the above.

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