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.
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.
Marisa Lancione | Eurek Alert!
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences