Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Infants absorb more than we might think


Concordia research shows babies know the difference between animate and inanimate objects

Does a baby know that a dog can jump a fence while a school bus can’t? Can a toddler grasp that a cat can avoid colliding with a wall, while a table being pushed into a wall can’t?

A new study from Concordia shows that infants as young as 10-months old can tell the difference between the kinds of paths naturally taken by a walking animal, compared to a moving car or piece of furniture.

That’s important information because the ability to categorize things as animate beings or inanimate objects is a fundamental cognitive ability that allows toddlers to better understand the world around them.

... more about:
»Health »Psychology »animals »difference »infants

The study, published in Infant Behavior & Development, looked at about 350 babies — who participated at 10, 12, 16 and 20 months — to find out when children clue in to the fact that animals and objects follow different motion paths.

Since the study subjects could not express much in words, the researchers used a technique called the “visual habituation paradigm,” which measures how long one looks at a given object.

“You can understand something about what babies know based on how long they look at something,” explains former doctoral student Rachel Baker, who collaborated on the study with fellow researcher Tamara Pettigrew and Diane Poulin-Dubois, a professor in Concordia’s Department of Psychology and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development. “Babies will look at something new longer than they will look at something that is already familiar to them.”

Since computer animations of a bus or a table jumping over a wall held the attention of infants for longer than a bus or table bumping into a wall, it indicated the former was newer to them than the latter. In contrast, infants’ attention was held just as well by a cat jumping over a wall as by a cat rebounding after running into a wall, indicating that infants think that cats can both jump and rebound.

This matches real life, says Baker, who obtained her PhD from Concordia and is now a research and statistical officer at the Cape Breton District Health Authority. “Animals do bump into objects — if I’m not paying attention to where I’m going, I’ve been known to bump into things. The bigger picture is that the motion of objects is more predictable than the motion of animals. This research shows that even 10-month-old babies have some understanding of this.”

For the researchers, the study reveals that even the youngest among us absorb more details than some might think, through eyes that are usually open wider than adult ones.

“Babies are really quite smart,” says Baker. “The secret to finding out what they know is to be creative and tap into behaviours they do naturally. By doing so, we’ve shown that babies understand something about animals and objects even though they can’t yet put that knowledge into words.”

Partners in Research: The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada provided scholarships and grants that contributed to this study, and the The Fonds pour la Formation de Chercheurs et l’Aide à la Recherche provided a scholarship that contributed to this study.

Learn more about the Centre for Research in Human Development.

Marisa Lancione | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Health Psychology animals difference infants

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Network analysis shows systemic risk in mineral markets
16.11.2015 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht NIST study of Colorado wildfire shows actions can change outcomes
10.11.2015 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

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: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

Im Focus: Climate Change: Warm water is mixing up life in the Arctic

AWI researchers’ unique 15-year observation series reveals how sensitive marine ecosystems in polar regions are to change

The warming of arctic waters in the wake of climate change is likely to produce radical changes in the marine habitats of the High North. This is indicated by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Harnessing a peptide holds promise for increasing crop yields without more fertilizer

25.11.2015 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Earth's magnetic field is not about to flip

25.11.2015 | Earth Sciences

Tracking down the 'missing' carbon from the Martian atmosphere

25.11.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>