Developmental Plasticity. Behavioral and Biological Aspects by Eugene S. Gollin

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The developing human experiences a prolonged period during which it is a captive audience exquisitely equipped to capitalize on events occurring in its surround. At least three aspects of sensory systems play a role in developmental variation. First, there are individual differences of both qualitative and quantitative character attributable to the hereditary materials. Second, differences in experience will introduce additional factors that contribute to variations in individual sensory systems, and last, these two sets of factors acting conjointly will affect the totality of experience.

T h e facial expressions of neonates also illustrate their ability to respond differentially to odors that adults describe as pleasant and odors that adults describe as aversive and offensive. Steiner ( 1 9 7 7 , 1 9 7 9 ) 40 J O H N S. WERNER A N D LEWIS P. LIPSITT demonstrated this clearly when he had a panel of observers rate the facial expressions of newborn infants when a cotton swab was placed under e a c h baby's n o s e . Ratings of a c c e p t a n c e and satisfaction were associated with the odor of banana, vanilla, and strawberry, whereas high ratings on expressions 1 of rejection were associated with the artificial odors of fish and rotten e g g s .

Precise mapping and organization of sensory input onto the brain has played an important part in the evolution of primate behavior. This mapping, or neurogenesis, takes place during prenatal and postnatal human development and provides an a v e n u e for experiential modifications and, ultimately, evolutionary refinements. It is nature's modification and selection of ontogenetic processes that m a k e evolution possible ( d e B e e r , 1 9 5 8 ) . T h e precision required in human sensory neurogenesis may be too high to entrust only to a genetic c o d e , for such a system would be easily defeated by unexpected developmental c h a n g e s in physical growth.

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