Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Babies remember even as they seem to forget

20.12.2011
Fifteen years ago, textbooks on human development stated that babies 6 months of age or younger had no sense of "object permanence" – the psychological term that describes an infant's belief that an object still exists even when it is out of sight. That meant that if mom or dad wasn't in the same room with junior, junior didn't have the sense that his parents were still in the world.

These days, psychologists know that isn't true: for young babies, out of sight doesn't automatically mean out of mind. But how much do babies remember about the world around them, and what details do their brains need to absorb in order to help them keep track of those things?

A new study led by a Johns Hopkins psychologist and child development expert has added a few pieces to this puzzle. Published in a recent issue of the journal Psychological Science, the study reveals that even though very young babies can't remember the details of an object that they were shown and which then was hidden, the infants' brains have a set of built in "pointers" that help them retain a notion that something they saw remains in existence even when they can't see it anymore.

"This study addresses one of the classic problems in the study of infant development: What information do infants need to remember about an object in order to remember that it still exists once it is out of their view?" said Melissa Kibbe, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins, who collaborated with colleague Alan Leslie at Rutgers University on the study. "The answer is, very little."

The team found that even though infants cannot remember the shapes of two hidden objects, they are surprised when those objects disappear completely. The conclusion? Infants do, indeed, remember an object's existence without remembering what that object is.

This is important, Kibbe explains, because it sheds light on the brain mechanisms that support memory in infancy and beyond.

"Our results seem to indicate that the brain has a set of 'pointers' that it uses to pick out the things in the world that we need to keep track of," explains Kibbe, who did the majority of the work on this study while pursuing her doctorate in Leslie's laboratory at Rutgers. "The pointer itself doesn't give us any information about what it is pointing to, but it does tell us something is there. Infants use this sense to keep track of objects without having to remember what those objects are."

In addition, the study may help researchers establish a more accurate timeline of the mental milestones of infancy and childhood.

In the study, 6-month-olds watched as a triangle was placed behind a screen and then as a second object (a disk) was placed behind a second screen. Researchers then removed the first screen to reveal either the expected original triangle, the unexpected disk, or nothing at all, as if the triangle had vanished completely.

The team then observed the infants' reactions, measuring how long they looked at expected versus unexpected outcomes.

In the situation where the objects were swapped, the babies seemed to hardly notice a difference, Kibbe said, indicating that they didn't retain a memory of that object's shape. In their minds, a triangle and a disk were virtually interchangeable.

However, when one of the objects had disappeared, the babies were surprised and gazed longer at the empty space, indicating that they expected something to be where something was before.

"In short, they retained an inkling of the object," said Leslie, of Rutgers.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Read the Psychological Science article here: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/22/12/1500

For more information about Kibbe, go here: http://www.psy.jhu.edu/~labforchilddevelopment/pages/people.html

For more information about Leslie, go here: http://ruccs.rutgers.edu/~aleslie/

Lisa DeNike | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.jhu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Japanese researchers develop ultrathin, highly elastic skin display

19.02.2018 | Information Technology

Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?

19.02.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Studying mitosis' structure to understand the inside of cancer cells

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>