Have you ever wondered exactly how infants perceive the world around them? If infants are exposed to certain foods in their prenatal development and are exposed to the food through their mother during breastfeeding after birth, will they remember that particular food later on in their life and prefer its taste to other foods? Is their sense of smell acute after birth or is it acquired over time? How do infants use the sense of touch to form relationships and learn about the fascinating world around them? Are they born with the ability to see the myriad of colors contained in the rainbow or is this ability developed after birth? Do infants tend to rely more heavily on their vision or their hearing to retrieve information from the outside world around them? All of these questions pertain to the topic of infant sensory development and how infants perceive and organize the multitude of sensory stimuli they are presented immediately after birth.
Because infants are not physically and cognitively able to linguistically communicate, studies conducted in attempt to better understand their perception and understanding of the world are most often conducted in way that measures visible external behavior that does not rely on linguistic communication. In these types of experimental studies, there is a certain amount of inferences that are made in interpreting the infants’ behaviors. Thus, there has been some disagreement and speculation among researchers as to the exact degree of infants’ perceptual abilities.
Another difficulty research involving infants encounters is the ethical concerns related to conducting experiments on this age group. There are specific guidelines that need to be followed when conducting research on infants making it much more difficult to obtain permission to conduct research on them. These factors help in explaining why there is not an abundance of research available on this particular subject. Even amidst all of these limitations, however, there are studies that are significant in helping us to better comprehend how infants view, process, and understand the world around them through their five senses: taste, smell, touch, vision, and hearing.
Infants’ Sense of Taste
According to researcher Julie Menella, infants do have a sense of taste that is present at a very young age (Holden, 2000, p. 4). Her research experiment involved forty-six women during the final three months of pregnancy. After these women were selected, they were placed into three distinct and separate groups. The group they were placed in determined both their own and their infants’s eating habits both before and after birth. One group drank water for the remainder of their pregnancy and for six months after their infant’s birth. The second group drank carrot juice during the final three months of their pregnancy, but then stopped drinking carrot juice and began drinking water when they began to breastfeed their infant after birth. Finally, the...