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What Factors Affect the Development of Perception?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 23 July 2014
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The key factor in the development of perception is exposure to rich and varied sensory stimuli. As infants mature, they learn from the world around them. Their senses sharpen, and they begin to associate specific stimuli with particular experiences. Over time, this contributes to the development of language and more advanced skills. Problems with the perception development can create life-long issues.

At birth, some sensory perception will be present, and it can be quickly honed and refined over weeks, months, and years by exposure to stimuli. For example, newborns have very poor distance vision initially. They may respond to objects moving outside their vision range, but they don’t see those objects clearly. Bright, bold stimuli tend to attract and hold their attention. This allows them to develop better visual acuity, which is a foundation for future skills like learning to read.

One factor that can slow the development of perception is a physical impairment like vision or hearing loss. Infants who are deaf or hard of hearing may not respond to auditory stimuli, and do not experience as much enrichment from the noises around them. Likewise, vision loss can inhibit the development of the vision centers of the brain. If these problems are not identified and addressed, the child may lag behind. A hard of hearing student, for example, might be labeled as lazy or inattentive when really the problem lies in not being able to hear the teacher.

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Another issue that can arise during the development of perception is cognitive or intellectual disabilities. This can include conditions like dyslexia, autism, or Down syndrome. These disabilities may interfere with the how the child's perception develops by changing the way a child consumes and processes perceptual information. For example, it can be harder to develop language skills, or may be difficult to acquire motor coordination, which can play a role in tactile development.

Psychological issues are another area of concern. Even in a stimulus-rich environment, development of perception may be slowed or impaired by stress or unhappiness. An infant who does not get very much attention, including affectionate physical contact and conversation, may be at a disadvantage. Likewise, infants exposed to frequent and protracted arguments between adults may develop emotional distress as a result of the tension and other emotions that may be present. This can cause infants and toddlers to withdraw, expressing less curiosity about their environment and experiencing corresponding delays in the development of perception.

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