Justin N. Wood
University of Southern California
To perceive the world successfully, newborns need to be exposed to certain types of visual inputs. The development of object recognition, for example, requires visual experience with slowly moving objects. To date, however, it is unknown whether newborns actively seek out the best visual inputs for developing object recognition. To address this issue, I used an automated controlled-rearing method to examine whether visually naïve animals (newborn chicks) seek out slowly moving objects. Despite receiving equal exposure to slowly and quickly rotating objects, the majority of the chicks developed a preference for slowly rotating objects. This preference was robust, producing large effect sizes across objects, experiments, and successive test days. These results indicate that newborn brains rapidly develop mechanisms aimed at orienting young animals toward optimal visual experiences, thus facilitating the development of object recognition. This study also demonstrates that automation can be a valuable tool for studying the origins and development of visual preferences.