The chapter under review “Learning capacities” presents four learning capacities found in infants, namely classical and operant conditioning, habituation, and imitation. This paper aims to summarize the main ideas and findings of the chapter.
Classical conditioning is a type of learning that is possible due to the existence of newborn reflexes. It appears as a result of combining a neutral stimulus with another stimulus that can lead to a reflexive response. In the case when neutral stimulus can successfully cause a reflexive response in a baby, the former is called conditioned stimulus whereas the latter – conditioned response.
Operant conditioning refers to knowledge acquisition through active interaction with the environment. The results of the child’s actions can be reinforcing (if the consequence is pleasant) or punishing (if the outcome is unpleasant).
Infants’ brains are naturally attracted to novel stimuli to ensure their intellectual development. The habituation process implies that the strength of an infant’s response to certain stimuli will reduce with the increased frequency of exposure to it. Thus, there is a negative association between an object’s familiarity and interest. The appearance of new stimuli in the well-known environment returns high levels of interest and engagement in infants or, in other words, leads to recovery.
Imitation refers to knowledge acquisition through copying the behavior of others. Some scholars consider that an infant’s ability to imitate is strongest the first two months after birth, but it gradually declines as the baby grows older. Other researchers argue that older kids do not lose the ability to imitate; rather, the time between observation and copying extends.
Although the scientific knowledge concerning children’s learning capacity is by no means exhaustive, the current understanding of infants’ mental processes can facilitate healthcare practice and medical research.
Berk, L. (2017). Development Through the Lifespan (7th ed.). Pearson.