[Paleopsych] BH: Babies Can Reason at 15 Months

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Babies Can Reason at 15 Months

    Betterhumans Staff
    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
    [8]Renee Baillargeon of the [9]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 [10]Science.


    8. http://www.psych.uiuc.edu/people/faculty/baillargeon.html
    9. http://www.uiuc.edu/
   10. http://www.sciencemag.org/

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