Skip navigation
Hardcover | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780262112321 | 383 pp. | 5.9 x 8.9 in | July 1998
Paperback | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780262611527 | 383 pp. | 5.9 x 8.9 in | January 2000

The Cradle of Knowledge

Development of Perception in Infancy


In the past twenty-five years there has been an explosion in research on the development of perception. This research has produced discoveries at multiple levels: ecological analyses of the information available for perception, models of representation and process, and improved understanding of biological mechanisms. In this comprehensive treatment of infant perception, Philip Kellman and Martha Arterberry bring together work at these multiple levels to produce a new picture of perception's origins. The emphasis is on perceptual knowledge—how one comes to perceive the world; what information, processes, and mechanisms produce this knowledge; and how perceptual processes change over time. They examine early perception in various domains, such as object, space, motion, intermodal, and speech perception and attempt to discover the starting points and paths of development of each. By focusing on individual experiments, they also give the reader a view of how research is conducted, including the interplay of data and theory.

Two families of views compete to describe how perception begins and develops. The authors show that the traditional constructivist view, emphasizing the construction of perceptual reality through extended learning, has been disconfirmed by experimental data in many domains. An ecological view, emphasizing the role of evolution in preparing infants to perceive, provides a better overall account, but the authors show that both innate foundations and learning contribute to perceptual development. The authors also examine interactions between infants' perceptual abilities and their cognitive, social, and motor development. They argue that the new picture of early perception requires a revised view of the beginnings of human cognitive and social development.


“This book by Kellman and Arterberry is a revelation. The clear and dramatic presentation of the evidence about infants' early perceptual capabilities will have a major impact on how we understand infant behavior.”
Robert Shapley, Center for Neural Science, New York University
“The last three decades have witnessed remarkable revisions in our assessment of the perceptual and cognitive competencies of the human infant. Kellman and Arterberry document and assess the extensive literature that has led these revisions. Throughout their examination they display respect for the experimental findings and sophisticated sensitivity to the theoretical options. Kellman and Arterberry have served us well.”
William Epstein, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University Wisconsin, Madison
“This is a fantastic, beautifully written book—its coverage of theory and research on infant perception and cognition is the best and most comprehensive I have ever seen. It is must-reading, not only for students of infancy, but also for all who work on models of the architecture, computational underpinnings, and/or the learning mechanisms involved in our ability to perceive the world.”
Rochel Gelman, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles
“The authors present a wealth of experiments on perception and cognition in infancy, providing a thorough, up-to-date, and in-depth analysis of all major theories and empirical evidence currently available in this field. The discussion of each area is rich and stimulating, well-documented, and fine-grained. The Cradle of Knowledge is a major contribution to the field of cognition development.”
Arlette Streri, Professor of Psychology, Université René Descartes
“This book is a welcome addition to the burgeoning field of infant perception. It is especially strong on technical aspects of perception, such as stimulus information for perception and sensory-physiological mechanisms. It will be useful in general courses in perception, as well as in developmental courses, in showing how much of human knowledge is derived from perception.”
Eleanor J. Gibson, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University
“Kellman and Arterberry have created much more than a textbook. The Cradle of Knowledge examines the central question: how do we acquire information about the world? This provocative treatment of new infant findings challenges a learning-based account of perceptual development.”
Albert Yonas, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota