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!
Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland
Diabetes Drug May Improve Bone Fat-induced Defects of Fracture Healing
17.03.2017 | Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences