Kybernetes 48 (2019)

Purpose – This study aims to examine the observer’s role in “infant psychophysics”. Infant psychophysics was developed because the diagnosis of perceptual deficits should be done as early in a patient’s life as possible, to provide efficacious treatment and thereby reduce potential long-term costs. Infants, however, cannot report their perceptions. Hence, the intensity of a stimulus at which the infant can detect it, the “threshold”, must be inferred from the infant’s behavior, as judged by observers (watchers). But whose abilities are actually being inferred? The answer affects all behavior-based conclusions about infants’ perceptions, including the well-proselytized notion that auditory stimulus-detection thresholds improve rapidly during infancy. Design/methodology/approach – In total, 55 years of infant psychophysics is scrutinized, starting with seminal studies in infant vision, followed by the studies that they inspired in infant hearing. Findings – The inferred stimulus-detection thresholds are those of the infant-plus-watcher and, more broadly, the entire laboratory. The thresholds are therefore tenuous, because infants’ actions may differ with stimulus intensity; expressiveness may differ between infants; different watchers may judge infants differently; etc. Particularly, the watcher’s ability to “read” the infant may improve with the infant’s age, confounding any interpretation of perceptual maturation. Further, the infant’s gaze duration, an assumed cue to stimulus detection, may lengthen or shorten nonlinearly with infant age. Research limitations/implications – Infant psychophysics investigators have neglected the role of the observer, resulting in an accumulation of data that requires substantial re-interpretation. Altogether, infant psychophysics has proven far too resilient for its own good. Originality/value – Infant psychophysics is examined for the first time through second-order cybernetics. The approach reveals serious unresolved issues.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Problem of Infant Suffering.Andrew Chignell - 1998 - Religious Studies 34 (2):205-217.
Function of Infant-Directed Speech.Marilee Monnot - 1999 - Human Nature 10 (4):415-443.
Can Infants Have Interests in Continued Life?Chris Kaposy - 2007 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 28 (4):301-330.
Infant Suffering Revisited.Andrew Chignell - 2001 - Religious Studies 37 (4):475-484.
Parent-Infant Bed-Sharing Behavior.Helen Ball - 2006 - Human Nature 17 (3):301-318.
Death by Non-Feeding: Not in the Baby's Best Interests.Helga Kuhse - 1986 - Journal of Medical Humanities 7 (2):79-90.


Added to PP index

Total views
79 ( #120,202 of 2,348,451 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
28 ( #25,199 of 2,348,451 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes