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How Family Dogs Help Infants Learn

Family Dog’s Are More Than Just Part of The Family


To study how infants benefit from having a family dog, we need to understand how infants build categories in very early childhood. Infants typically start to build categories around four months old. These categories are very simplistic and the infant needs many repetitive interactions to formulate their cognitive development.


By six months old, infants with dogs at home were able to recognize the general appearance of a dog. However, they could only recognize an image if the dog was right-side up, standing on all fours. If the image was flipped around, with the dog’s feet pointing up and the dog’s back down, the infant could not associate the image with the “dog” category they previously formed. Likely, because they were not familiar with this dog pose in reality.


Infants also needed to be able to recognize how the dog’s ears, eyes, nose and mouth appeared in order to build the category. The infants did this effectively through daily interactions and experience with their family dog.


These infants were also able to make simple modifications to the category over time as they gained new information. Such as seeing different breeds on walks. Dogs with pointed ears versus dogs with floppy ears challenged their development of the category and the infant, over time, with repeated exposure is able to adjust their category development and reasoning appropriately.


Judging Infants Image Recognition


It was found that the infants would stare at the image for a shorter amount of time if they were more familiar with it, and they looked at other images longer if they were less familiar with it. Showing the infant an image of a cat produced the expected results that they stared longer at the cat image than at the dog image. This was consistent with the evidence that they had a dog at home that they interacted with daily, not a cat.


What About Infants Without Dogs at Home


For infants growing up without a family dog, there is no need for panic. Although infants growing up with a family dog learn dog categories earlier, cognitive development usually levels out by pre-school and early elementary as children without dogs at home learn from observing dogs from the surrounding environment. What research can tell us is infant’s learning is context dependent.


Therefore, repetitive, consistent, physical and observational experience leads to quicker learning and formation of categorization in early infancy. This process is aided by parental interest and encouragement.


Source by Yuliss Saint Pierre




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