Gibsons Differentiation Theory of Perceptual Development

Published: 2019-10-16 07:30:00
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Gibson theory is considered as a differentiation view of development since it is in contrast to the opinion that states that the senses are usually separated at birth. Eleanor Gibson proposition is that the senses are all unified at birth, and the perceptual development is characterized as a gradual process of differentiating increasingly finer levels of sensory stimulation (Gibson, 1961). Infants, therefore, have detected many features that have unified their multimodal events right from the time that they are born. After birth, they start to learn and perceive more subtle differences and more complex objects and activities by the help of their senses. The senses help them to interact with their surroundings and their environment.

In the case where a child had a bad experience with an object let say water, and they were close to drowning, they may never want to go near the water again. Another child ought to be near the water at all time since he or she has not experienced a near drowning incident (Gibson, 1973). The use of an experiment known as Visual Cliff is used to determine how the infants develop the sense of perception. It can reveal whether the perception of that child was gained during birth or through the experience, perception can be improved.

Gibson focuses on differentiation set her theory apart from the traditional account whereby she claimed that perception requires more than the obtainable sensory stimulation (Gibson, 1973). In that account, perceptual learning is a process of learning to construct, supplement, infer, hypothesize, interpret, organize, associate and enrich impoverished input.

Gibson brought a new outlook on perception and developed research whereby the environment was more scrutinized in the framework of learning. Perception can be significant since it makes people adapt to the environment right from birth. Gibson claimed that children learn to distinguish the environment and noting the different layouts, object and events. (Gibson & Gibson, 1955). Human are believed to learn through need. Infants are like the hunter-gatherers who gather the information with the purpose to live and steer the world. Gibson had a belief that allowed the environment to be seen as it offers direct perception. A robust is found between the environment Providence and the childs goals, abilities and actions.

Gibson carried out an experiment whereby two categories of babies that could crawl and those that could walk were put on a walk away of a height of 4 feet. Their mothers waited for them on the walkway end smiling at their children. The first situation had a surface that was rigid and was enclosed with fabric allowing the babies to either crawl or walk with ease (Gibson & Gibson, 1955). The other situation contained a walkway with fabric that was patterned on top with a waterbed that was affordable for crawling only. Gibson noted that the infants that could walk used up some time to look into the surface of the waterbed more than the other surface that was rigid before making a decision on what technique they would settle to. The children who could crawl did not note the difference like the others babies did. The two surfaces acted as affordance and a chance for the children to develop perception and how to adapt exist in their surroundings.

Perception is not only on images and sensation; it is also of space, time and places. Gibson viewed perceptual learning as a way that children learn to discriminate an object considering their discrete features or the characteristics (Gibson, 1961). At more complicated situation Gibson saw perceptual learning as a way of development and perceiving what is existing. Gibson studies children and the way they interact with the environment and conclude that perception is what makes cognition be possible. Perceptual learning never ends what changes is what we learn.


Gibson, E. (1961). Association and differentiation in perceptual learning. Acta Psychologica, 19, 325-326., E. (1973). Principles of Perceptual Learning and Development. Leonardo, 6(2), 190., J. & Gibson, E. (1955). PERCEPTUAL LEARNING: DIFFERENTIATION OR ENRICHMENT?. Psychological Review, 62(1), 32-41.


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