Here are message from Alan Gilchrist trying to convince me that there is evidence for newborn babies perceiving shape and size correctly on the first day. The message include my message to which he respondes.

Like all infant studies, these studies are based on looking time, and therefore cannot actually tell us much about processes inside the baby's brain, independently on the age of babies on which the experiments were done. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see how he tries to twist the evidence in respect of the age of the babis.


  • He says that the mean age was three days and the youngest were 7 and 9 hours old, trying to imply the 7 and 9 hours babies gave positive results (lying by implication). But the resuls of the studies could be entirely from the older babies (4 and 5 days old). He doesn't claim explicitly that the youngest babies showed positive results, presumably because that is false and he wants to avoid an explicit lie.
  • He says here that "first day" "may be a slight exaggeration", but in the review on which my question was about (See here) he not only talks about first day, but explicitly bases his argument on the "newborn learn something so sophisticated in a matter of hours". So in the review he felt that it is important to emphasize that it is "matter of hours", presumably because he thought that using three days, as the mean age really was, is not convincing.
  • I didn't actually read the articles, because they are quite old. I looked (a little) for newer research which reproduce or refer to these studies and didn't find any. If you do, let me know.

    First message

    From: "Alan" 
    To: "Yehouda Harpaz" 
    Sent: Sunday, June 08, 2003 4:05 PM
    Subject: Re: What babies recognize in the first day
    On 6/8/03 8:13 AM, "Yehouda Harpaz"  wrote:
    > Dear Alan Gilchrist,
    > In your review of "Why We See What We Do: An Empirical Theory of Vision",
    > (nature June 2003 Volume 6 Number 6 p 550), you wrote:
    >    "Infant habituation studies show that size and shape are
    >      perceived correctly on the first day of life."
    > Can you give me some references for that?
    Talking about "the first day of life" may be a slight exaggeration, but not
    Slater, A., A. Mattock, et al. (1990). "Size Constancy at Birth: Newborn
    Infants' Responses to Retinal and Real Sizes." Journal of  Experimental
    Child Psychology 49: 314-322.
    Slater, A. and V. Morison (1985). "Shape constancy and slant
    perception at birth." Perception 14: 337-344.
    Alan Gilchrist, Professor
    Psychology Dept.
    Rutgers University
    Newark, NJ 07102
    (973) 353-5440 Ext.227
    Fax: (973)353-1171
    Second message
    From: "Alan" 
    To: "yehouda harpaz" 
    Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 5:19 AM
    Subject: Re: What babies recognize in the first day
    On 6/9/03 3:35 PM, "yehouda harpaz"  wrote:
    >> Talking about "the first day of life" may be a slight exaggeration,
    >> but not  much:
    > If it is an exaggeration, even slight, then why write it?
    Because I think its a fair summary of the situation.  The mean age was less
    than three days, but the youngest babies in the study were 7 and 9 hours