Tutorial on Embodiment

5.2.1. Grounding toddler learning in sensory-motor dynamics


How do toddlers acquire representations of objects? In a series of studies, Smith (2010) and colleagues demonstrated sensory-motor dynamics and development play a crucial part. Toddlers of different age were playing with objects and where their visual direction was directed at was approximated by a camera mounted on their head. The infants' parents were their partners in play and they occasionally named the objects. The studies offer a quantitative account of how do infants explore objects and how they learn to categorize (name) them.

The experiments show that visual attention is a sensory-motor system that involves not only the eyes, but also head and hands. The infant repeatedly brings the object it attends to in front of the eyes and rotates it. Moreover, and this changes during development, the infant tends to observe the object in specific orientations, such as "upright" with respect to gravity. It is only in the moments when the attention is focused on a particular object when the infant learns to associate an object with its name. Please refer to Smith (2010, online lecture) for more details.

Online Lecture:

Linda B. Smith
Cognitive Development Lab
Indiana University
Bloomington, USA
Grounding Toddler Learning in Sensory Motor Dynamics



Linda B. Smith: Grounding toddler learning in sensory-motor dynamics. Keynote lecture at EUCogII Conference, ETH Zurich, 2010. Available at https://cast.switch.ch/vod/clips/jzpa1x6fz.