[Paleopsych] BH: Babies Can Reason at 15 Months
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Sat Apr 16 22:14:59 UTC 2005
Babies Can Reason at 15 Months
4/15/2005 3:14 PM
Babies just 15 months old display signs of sophisticated reasoning
previously thought to develop at about four years of age.
The findings could lead to earlier screening for autism. They also
call into question the idea that a large change occurs in early
childhood in the understanding of others.
"If 15-month-olds can reason about what others believe, it means that
psychological reasoning is much more sophisticated than we thought,
and begins at a much earlier age than we had thought," says researcher
Renee Baillargeon of the University of Illinois at
Violation of expectations
Baillargeon and colleagues studied 56 infants who witnessed actors
perform unexpected behaviors.
In one study, for example, infants sat on a parent's lap and watched
an actor place a toy watermelon slice into one of two boxes.
The slice was then moved from one box to the other seemingly
unbeknownst to the actor.
When the actor searched for it in the box where it was, rather than
where it was supposed to be, infants expressed surprise in the form of
looking longer at the scene.
"Infants understood that the actor could have a true or a false belief
about the toy's location, and they always expected her to act in a
manner consistent with her belief," says Baillargeon. "This is the
violation-of-expectation method: Babies look longer at events they
view as unexpected. It is a 'whoa' look--a state of heightened
attention. It's like it is in everyday life. You expect something and
then when it's not what it should be, you tend to look longer, as when
we watch a magic show. It's the wow of the unexpected."
Baillargeon says it's possible that verbal tasks used in earlier works
to gauge children's reasoning skills were overly complex.
The research is reported in the journal Science.
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