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Using the examples of kittens and geese, explain the idea of a critical period.

Critical Period
It is generally believed that for many organisms, there is a specific time period, a so-called "window of opportunity," during which the organism must receive crucial input from its environment in order for normal development to occur. This period is called the critical period. If the needed environmental input is not received during this period, the normal development of certain physical attributes or behaviors may never occur. In other words, if the organism is not provided with the needed stimulus or influence during the critical period, it may permanently lose the capacity to ever obtain a particular physical attribute or behavior.

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Professor: Let's start with a physical attribute, say, uh, in kittens. Adult cats have extremely good vision, especially at night. But in order for a kitten's eyesight to develop normally, the kitten must be exposed to light during the first four months of its life. Without that, its eyesight will not develop correctly, it will never be able to see as well as it should. Even if the kitten is exposed to plenty of light after those four months of darkness, it won't matter, its vision will never develop normally. As far as behavior's concerned, well, have you ever seen how little baby geese line up and then, single-file, they follow their parent goose around? Well, what would happen if they didn't see a parent goose within the first two days of their lives? Actually, for normal behavior to develop, they must see what to follow within these first two days. What happens is, whatever large moving object they first see during those two days, they'll adopt that object as their parent... forever. It can never be changed. For example, suppose after the baby geese were hatched, the only other animal around was, I don't know, say a dog. OK? So the baby geese see a dog, but no other geese. Even though the dog is a totally different species, the geese will adopt it as their parent—they'll follow it around. And even if the parent geese reappear later, it won't matter to the babies—they'll follow the dog. After two days the behavior is fixed and they'll never exhibit the normal behavior of following their real parent—a goose.

Question:

Using the examples of kittens and geese, explain the idea of a critical period.

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According to the reading, critical period, the so-called “window opportunity,” is time period during which the organism must receive crucial input from its environment in order for the normal development to occur; if not, it may lost certain physical attribute or behavior permanently. In the lecture, the professor take kitten and goose as examples. A kitten has to be exposed to light during the first four month of its life, or its eyesight will not develop normally no matter how much light it is exposed to in its rest of life. Similarly, a goose will regard what it see during its first two days as its parent. If it sees a dog, it will adopt the dog as its parent and follow it instead of its real parent.

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