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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Babies Teach Psychology Researchers about Perception, Learning

What can a four-month-old teach college students and faculty about learning? According to Dr. Wayne Mitchell, associate professor of psychology at Missouri State University, there is much to learn from these infants.

For example: You’re driving on the Interstate with traffic all around you. In tiny increments of time, you are cognitively aware: That’s a red Accord. That’s a blue Camry. That’s a semi. That's a DeLorean with a flux capacitor.

But wait — a DeLorean with a flux capacitor has moved next to you. It catches your attention … and in all likelihood, you take longer looks at the DeLorean and your heart rate decreases.

 To psychologists, these looks and this change in heart rate are physiological signs that you are having a “response to novelty” and are actively encoding new information. If you saw the DeLorean regularly, it would be what they call a “habitual experience.” Your visual attention to the car would decrease, and changes in your heart rate would not occur. 

Nicki received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration from Missouri State in marketing, in 2002 and 2004 respectively. After gaining experience in writing, marketing, special event planning, fundraising and public relations, she returned to the university to work in the office of strategic communication. There she tells the university’s story by sharing the stories of individuals at Missouri State.