Unformatted text preview: sual cliff (Fig. 1). FIGURE 1
The Classic Visual Cliff Experiment
This young explorer has the good sense not to crawl out onto an apparently unsupported surface, even when
Mother beckons from the other side. Rats, pups, kittens, and chicks also will not try to walk across to the
other side. (So don’t bother asking why the chicken crossed the visual cliff.)
We tested 36 infants ranging in age from six months to 14 months on the visual cliff. Each child was placed
upon the centre board, and his mother called him to her from the cliff side and the shallow side successively.
All of the 27 infants who moved off the board crawled out on the shallow side at least once; only three of
them crept off the brink onto the glass suspended above the pattern on the floor. Many of the infants
crawled away from the mother when she called to them from the cliff side; others cried when she stood
there, because they could not come to her without crossing an apparent chasm. The experiment thus
demonstrated that most human infants can discriminate depth as soon as they can crawl. The behavior of
the children in this situation gave clear evidence of their dependence on vision. Often they would peer down
through the glass on the deep side and then back away. Others would pat the glass with their hands, yet
despite this tactual assurance of solidity would refuse to cross. It was equally clear that their perception of
depth had matured more rapidly than had their locomotor abilities. Many supported themselves on the glass
over the deep side as they maneuvered awkwardly on the board; some even backed out onto the glass as
they started toward the mother on the shallow side. Were it not for the glass some of the children would
have fallen off the board. Evidently infants should not be left close to a brink, no matter how well they may
discriminate depth. This experiment does not prove that the human infant’s perception and avoidance of the cliff are innate.
Such an interpretation is supported, however, by the experiments wi...
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- Winter '14
- Developmental Psychology, Depth perception, Eleanor J. Gibson