Play enhances visual form perception in infancy–an active training study
Motor experiences and active exploration during early childhood may affect individual differences in a wide range of perceptual and cognitive abilities. In the current
study, we suggest that active exploration of objects facilitates the ability to process
object forms and magnitudes, which in turn impacts the development of numerosity
perception. We tested our hypothesis by conducting a preregistered active exploration intervention with 59 8-month-old infants. The minimal intervention consisted of
actively playing with and exploring blocks once a day for 8 weeks. In order to control
for possible training effects on attention, we used book reading as a control condition.
Pre- and post-test assessments using eye-tracking showed that block play improved
visual form perception, where infants became better at detecting a deviant shape.
Furthermore, using three control tasks, we showed that the intervention specifically
improved infants' ability to process visual forms and the effect could not be explained
by a domain general improvement in attention or visual perception. We found that
the intervention did not improve numerosity perception and suggest that because of
the sequential nature of our hypothesis, a longer time frame might be needed to see
improvements in this ability. Our findings indicate that if infants are given more opportunities for play and exploration, it will have positive effects on their visual form
perception, which in turn could help their understanding of geometrical concepts.
approximate number system, embodiment, visual form perception