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The Developing Child Visual Cliff

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This paper describes the creation of visual cliff, its usage, and the results of the experiments on infants, presented in the given video.

Visual cliff was developed in 1960 by Dr. Eleanor Gibson and Dr. Richard Walk. The visual cliff is made of a sheet of Plexiglas. One side of this Plexiglas sheet is painted and another side is totally transparent, but has painted pattern beneath it, creating a realistic illusion of a steep. Since the Plexiglas can easily support a child, this is a visual cliff and not an actual one. Visual cliff helps to determine if children have developed a depth perception and emotion of fear.

During the experiment, a child is placed on one side of the stand and a parent stands close to another side of the transparent surface. If a child has a developed depth perception, he or she will be capable to recognize the visual cliff and would refuse to crawl to a parent. The first child in the video just began to crawl. He did not hesitate much and went to his father. The child shows a desire to get to the parent; he tests the hardness of the surface of the cliff and easily reaches another edge. Another child had already been crawling for over a month. The girl did not cross the transparent surface in spite of the fact that her parent was calling and supporting her.

The experiment demonstrates that children having about eight months and a half have a developed emotion of fear and depth perception. The younger infants had not yet developed depth perception. Probably, too young children don’t understand that the possible result of going over a cliff is falling. This knowledge and fear comes later when a child begins to crawl, and gets experience of falling. Fear of falling is one of the basic emotions. However, it is not innate. And the fear of heights doesn’t come out before some negative experience with crawling occurs. Inexperienced crawlers will crawl over what seems to be a cliff, while children having a month or two of crawling experience will refuse to go forward.

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