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!
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Scientists and engineers striving to create the next machine-age marvel--whether it be a more aerodynamic rocket, a faster race car, or a higher-efficiency jet...
Waveguides are widely used for filtering, confining, guiding, coupling or splitting beams of visible light. However, creating waveguides that could do the same for X-rays has posed tremendous challenges in fabrication, so they are still only in an early stage of development.
In the latest issue of Acta Crystallographica Section A: Foundations and Advances , Sarah Hoffmann-Urlaub and Tim Salditt report the fabrication and testing of...
Electrochemists at TU Graz have managed to use monocrystalline semiconductor silicon as an active storage electrode in lithium batteries. This enables an integrated power supply to be made for microchips with a rechargeable battery.
Small electrical gadgets, such as mobile phones, tablets or notebooks, are indispensable accompaniments of everyday life. Integrated circuits in the interiors...
Recent findings indicating the possible discovery of a previously unknown subatomic particle may be evidence of a fifth fundamental force of nature, according...
A nanocrystalline material that rapidly makes white light out of blue light has been developed by KAUST researchers.
25.08.2016 | Event News
24.08.2016 | Event News
12.08.2016 | Event News
26.08.2016 | Health and Medicine
26.08.2016 | Earth Sciences
26.08.2016 | Life Sciences