IELTS® Academic Reading Practice 48

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Studying Infant Perception

A It was once commonly thought that infants lack the ability to form complex ideas. For much of the 20th century, most psychologists accepted the traditional thesis that a newborn’s mind is a blank slate (tabula rasa) on which the record of experience is gradually impressed.It was once commonly thought that infants lack the ability to form complex ideas. For much of the 20th century, most psychologists accepted the traditional thesis that a newborn’s mind is a blank slate (tabula rasa) on which the record of experience is gradually impressed. It was further thought that language is an obvious prerequisite for abstract thought and that, in its absence, a baby could not have knowledge. Until recently, there was no obvious way for them to demonstrate otherwise. But challenges to this view arose. Armed with new methodologies, psychologists began to accumulate a substantial body of data about the remarkable abilities that young children possess that stands in stark contrast to the older emphases on what they lacked. It is now known that very young children are competent, active agents of their own conceptual development.

B A major move away from the earlier tabula rasa view of the infant mind was taken by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. From close observations of infants and careful questioning of children, he concluded that the development of the mind proceeds through certain stages, each involving radically different thinking processes. Piaget observed that infants actually seek stimulation from their surroundings thus promoting their intellectual development. He showed that their initial representations of such things as space and time as well as awareness of objects and self are constructed only gradually during the first 2 years. He concluded that understanding in young infants is built up through the gradual coordination of sight, sound and touch.

C After Piaget, perceptual learning theorists studied how newborns begin to integrate sight and sound and explore their surroundings. They saw that learning in infants proceeded rapidly when they were given the opportunity to explore the objects and events they encountered. Theories were developed which attempted to describe how the brain processes information. It was around this time that the metaphor of the mind as computer came into wide usage.

D In the study of perceptual abilities of infants, a number of techniques are used to determine infants' responses to various stimuli. Because they cannot verbalize or fill out questionnaires, indirect techniques of naturalistic observation are used as the primary means of determining what infants can see, hear, feel, and so forth. Each of these methods compares an infant's state prior to the introduction of a stimulus with its state during or immediately following the stimulus. The difference between the two measures provides the researcher with an indication of the level and duration of the response to the stimulus. For example, if a uniformly moving pattern of some sort is passed across the visual field of a neonate (newborn), repetitive following movements of the eye occur. The occurrence of these eye movements provides evidence that the moving pattern is perceived at some level by the newborn.

E Such techniques, however, have limitations. First, the observation may be unreliable in that two or more observers may not agree that the particular response occurred, or to what degree it occurred. Second, responses are difficult to quantify. Often the rapid and diffuse movements of the infant make it difficult to get an accurate record of the number of responses. The third, and most potent, limitation is that it is not possible to be certain that the infant's response was due to the stimulus presented or to a change from no stimulus to a stimulus. The infant may be responding to aspects of the stimulus different than those identified by the investigator. Therefore, when observational assessment is used as a technique for studying infant perceptual abilities, care must be taken not to overgeneralize from the data or to rely on one or two studies as conclusive evidence of a particular perceptual ability of the infant.

F Observational assessment techniques have become much more sophisticated, reducing the limitations just presented. Film analysis of the infant's responses, heart and respiration rate monitors, and nonnutritive sucking devices are used as effective tools in understanding infant perception. Film analysis permits researchers to carefully study the infant's responses over and over and in slow motion.   Precise measurements can be made of the length and frequency of the infant's attention between two stimuli. Heart and respiration monitors provide the investigator with the number of heartbeats or breaths taken when a new stimulus is presented. Numerical increases are used as quantifiable indicators of heightened interest in the new stimulus. Increases in nonnutritive sucking were first used as an assessment measure by researchers in 1969. They devised an apparatus that connected a baby's pacifier to acounting device. As stimuli were presented, changes in the infant's sucking behavior were recorded. Increases in the number of sucks were used as an indicator of the infant's attention to or preference for a given visual display.

G Two additional techniques of studying infant perception have come into vogue. The first is the habituation-dishabituation technique, in which a single stimulus is presented repeatedly to the infant until there is a measurable decline (habituation) in whatever attending behavior is being observed. At that point a new stimulus is presented, and any recovery (dishabituation) in responsiveness is recorded. If the infant fails to dishabituate and continues to show habituation with the new stimulus, it is assumed that the baby is unable to perceive the new stimulus as different. The habituation-dishabituation paradigm has been used most extensively with studies of auditory and olfactory perception in infants. The second technique relies on evoked potentials, which are electrical brain responses that may be related to a particular stimulus because of where they originate. Changes in the electrical pattern of the brain indicate that the stimulus is getting through to the infant's central nervous system and eliciting some form of response.

H Each of the preceding techniques provides the researcher with evidence that the infant can detector discriminate between stimuli. With these sophisticated observational assessment and electro-physiological measures, we know that the neonate of only a few days is far more perceptive than previously suspected. However, these measures are only "indirect" indicators of the infant's perceptual abilities.

Piaget showed that each new development of learning in infants involved different thinking processes from sound, sight, and hearing through stimulation from the infants surroundings.



This reading practice simulates one part of the IELTS Academic Reading test. You should spend about twenty minutes on it. Read the passage and answer questions 27-40.
Questions 27-29
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

Write your answers in boxes 27-29 on your answer sheet.

27. Researchers use indirect methods primarily to observe the ….

28. Which of the following is NOT mentioned as a problem in using the technique of direct  observation?

29. Which of the following leads to the conclusion that infants are able to differentiate between stimuli in a habituation-dishabituation study?

Questions 30-36
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 30-36 on your answer sheet, write

TRUE   if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE   if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN   if there is no information on this.

30. The focus of early research methods in child development have been similar to those conducted more recently.

31. Piaget showed that each new stage of learning builds upon the previous one.

32. Researchers using observational assessment techniques on infants must base their conclusions on data from many studies.

33. When researchers fail to make generalizations from their studies, their observed data is often inconclusive.

34. Different areas of an infant's brain respond to different types of stimuli.

35. Observational assessment is less useful for studying infant perception than researchers previously believed.

36. A neonate is able to perceive stimuli better than researchers once thought.

Questions 37-40
Complete the summary using the list of words, A-I, below.
  1. Non-nutritive sucking
  2. Perception
  3. Stimuli
  4. Direct indicators
  5. Procedures
  6. Studies
  7. Film analysis
  8. Indirect indicators
  9. Recovery

Early studies of an infant’s perception ability were limited by data incongruencies and inconsistent . As science progressed, researchers linked a tally counter to a pacifier to measure and corresponding responses. Researchers used the device and to conclude that an infant’s perception occurs at an earlier age than expected.  These measurements and methodology, however, often rely on rather than hard data. Without them, any study of an infant’s perception ability can be inconclusive.




Answer Sheet
1
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2
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3
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4
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5
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6
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7
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8
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9
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10
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11
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12
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13
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14
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15
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16
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17
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18
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19
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20
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21
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22
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23
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24
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25
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26
N/A
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
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39
40


Reading Passage Vocabulary
Studying Infant Perception


A It was once commonly thought that infants lack the ability to form complex ideas. For much of the 20th century, most psychologists accepted the traditional thesis that a newborn’s mind is a blank slate (tabula rasa) on which the record of experience is gradually impressed.It was once commonly thought that infants lack the ability to form complex ideas. For much of the 20th century, most psychologists accepted the traditional thesis that a newborn’s mind is a blank slate (tabula rasa) on which the record of experience is gradually impressed. It was further thought that language is an obvious prerequisite for abstract thought and that, in its absence, a baby could not have knowledge. Until recently, there was no obvious way for them to demonstrate otherwise. But challenges to this view arose. Armed with new methodologies, psychologists began to accumulate a substantial body of data about the remarkable abilities that young children possess that stands in stark contrast to the older emphases on what they lacked. It is now known that very young children are competent, active agents of their own conceptual development.

B A major move away from the earlier tabula rasa view of the infant mind was taken by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. From close observations of infants and careful questioning of children, he concluded that the development of the mind proceeds through certain stages, each involving radically different thinking processes. Piaget observed that infants actually seek stimulation from their surroundings thus promoting their intellectual development. He showed that their initial representations of such things as space and time as well as awareness of objects and self are constructed only gradually during the first 2 years. He concluded that understanding in young infants is built up through the gradual coordination of sight, sound and touch.

C After Piaget, perceptual learning theorists studied how newborns begin to integrate sight and sound and explore their surroundings. They saw that learning in infants proceeded rapidly when they were given the opportunity to explore the objects and events they encountered. Theories were developed which attempted to describe how the brain processes information. It was around this time that the metaphor of the mind as computer came into wide usage.

D In the study of perceptual abilities of infants, a number of techniques are used to determine infants' responses to various stimuli. Because they cannot verbalize or fill out questionnaires, indirect techniques of naturalistic observation are used as the primary means of determining what infants can see, hear, feel, and so forth. Each of these methods compares an infant's state prior to the introduction of a stimulus with its state during or immediately following the stimulus. The difference between the two measures provides the researcher with an indication of the level and duration of the response to the stimulus. For example, if a uniformly moving pattern of some sort is passed across the visual field of a neonate (newborn), repetitive following movements of the eye occur. The occurrence of these eye movements provides evidence that the moving pattern is perceived at some level by the newborn.

E Such techniques, however, have limitations. First, the observation may be unreliable in that two or more observers may not agree that the particular response occurred, or to what degree it occurred. Second, responses are difficult to quantify. Often the rapid and diffuse movements of the infant make it difficult to get an accurate record of the number of responses. The third, and most potent, limitation is that it is not possible to be certain that the infant's response was due to the stimulus presented or to a change from no stimulus to a stimulus. The infant may be responding to aspects of the stimulus different than those identified by the investigator. Therefore, when observational assessment is used as a technique for studying infant perceptual abilities, care must be taken not to overgeneralize from the data or to rely on one or two studies as conclusive evidence of a particular perceptual ability of the infant.

F Observational assessment techniques have become much more sophisticated, reducing the limitations just presented. Film analysis of the infant's responses, heart and respiration rate monitors, and nonnutritive sucking devices are used as effective tools in understanding infant perception. Film analysis permits researchers to carefully study the infant's responses over and over and in slow motion.   Precise measurements can be made of the length and frequency of the infant's attention between two stimuli. Heart and respiration monitors provide the investigator with the number of heartbeats or breaths taken when a new stimulus is presented. Numerical increases are used as quantifiable indicators of heightened interest in the new stimulus. Increases in nonnutritive sucking were first used as an assessment measure by researchers in 1969. They devised an apparatus that connected a baby's pacifier to acounting device. As stimuli were presented, changes in the infant's sucking behavior were recorded. Increases in the number of sucks were used as an indicator of the infant's attention to or preference for a given visual display.

G Two additional techniques of studying infant perception have come into vogue. The first is the habituation-dishabituation technique, in which a single stimulus is presented repeatedly to the infant until there is a measurable decline (habituation) in whatever attending behavior is being observed. At that point a new stimulus is presented, and any recovery (dishabituation) in responsiveness is recorded. If the infant fails to dishabituate and continues to show habituation with the new stimulus, it is assumed that the baby is unable to perceive the new stimulus as different. The habituation-dishabituation paradigm has been used most extensively with studies of auditory and olfactory perception in infants. The second technique relies on evoked potentials, which are electrical brain responses that may be related to a particular stimulus because of where they originate. Changes in the electrical pattern of the brain indicate that the stimulus is getting through to the infant's central nervous system and eliciting some form of response.

H Each of the preceding techniques provides the researcher with evidence that the infant can detector discriminate between stimuli. With these sophisticated observational assessment and electro-physiological measures, we know that the neonate of only a few days is far more perceptive than previously suspected. However, these measures are only "indirect" indicators of the infant's perceptual abilities.

Piaget showed that each new development of learning in infants involved different thinking processes from sound, sight, and hearing through stimulation from the infants surroundings.
 
IELTS Academic Reading Tips for Success
These are general tips that will appear on all reading questions.

Tips to improve your reading speed
To get a high score on the IELTS reading section, you need to have a fast reading speed. To have a fast reading speed, you need to improve your vocabulary and practice dissecting sentences. One strategy to dissect a sentence is to look for the subject and verb of the sentence. Finding the subject and verb will help you better understand the main idea of said sentence. Keep in mind, a common feature of a IELTS reading passage is to join strings of ideas to form long compound sentences. This produces large chunks that students have a hard time absorbing. Do not get overwhelmed by its length, just look for the subject and verb, the rest of the ideas will flow.


Keep in mind, having a slow reading speed makes skimming or scanning a reading passage more difficult. The process of quickly skimming through a reading passage for specific keywords or main ideas is a requirement for you to employ successful reading strategies to improve your IELTS reading score. In other words, skimming and scanning are critical skills to ensure you complete all questions in the allotted time frame.
IELTS Reading Strategies
Once you can read and comprehend a passage with a rate of, at least, 220 words per minute, you'll be ready to start implementing our strategies. All too often, students spend too much time reading the passages and not enough time answering the questions. Here is a step by step guide for tackling the reading section.

  1. Step 1: Read questions first

    One of the most common mistakes that candidates make when approaching the reading exam is reading every single word of the passages. Although you can practice for the exam by reading for pleasure, "reading blindly" (reading without any sense of what the questions will ask) will not do you any favors in the exam. Instead, it will hurt your chances for effectively managing your time and getting the best score.

    The main reason to read the questions first is because the type of question may determine what you read in the passage or how you read it. For example, some question types will call for the "skimming" technique, while others may call for the "scanning" technique.

    It is important to answer a set of questions that are of the same question type. You'll need to determine which question type you want to tackle first. A good strategy would be to start with the easier question type and move on to more difficult question types later. The Easiest question types are the ones where you spend less time reading. For example, the Matching Heading question type is an easier one because you only need to find the heading that best describes the main idea of a paragraph. An example of a difficult question type would be Identifying Information. For this question type, you'll need to read each paragraph to find out if each statement is TRUE, FALSE, or NOT GIVEN according to the passage.

    Here is a table that lists the difficulty levels for each question type. Use this table as a reference when choosing which question type you want to tackle first.


    Difficulty level Question Type
    Easy Sentence Completion
    Short answer
    Medium Matching Features
    Multiple choice
    Matching Headings
    Summary, Table, Flow-Chart Completion
    Difficult Matching Sentence Endings
    Matching Information
    Identifying Information (TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN)
    Identifying Viewer's claims (YES/NO/NOT GIVEN)

  2. Step 2: Read for an objective

    After you've read the questions for the passage, you will be able to read for an objective. What does this mean? For example, if you come across a question that includes the year "1896", you can make a note of when this year comes up in the text, using it to answer the question later on. There are two reading techniques that will help you stay on track with reading for an objective. The first one, skimming, is best defined as reading fast in order to get the "gist", or general idea, or a passage. With this technique, you are not stopping for any unfamiliar words or looking for specific details. The second technique, scanning, is best defined as reading for specific information. With this technique, you are not reading for the overall gist, but rather, specific information. Notice how each of these techniques has a specific objective in mind. This will help you find information more quickly.

  3. Step 3: Take notes

    As you're reading for an objective, you should also be making notes on the margins of the passage, placing stars next to key information, or underlining things that you believe will help you answer the various questions. This will make it easier for you to check back when you are asked certain things in the questions. Choose whichever note-taking system is right for you - just make sure you do it!

  4. Step 4: Answer wisely

    After you've read the questions, read the passage, and have taken any appropriate notes, you you should have located the part of the text where you where you need to read carefully. Then just read carefully and think critically to determine the correct answer.

IELTS Reading Question Types
 
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