How babies understand the world, and their place in it

Andrew Bremner of the U. of London and colleagues announce research into babies’ perception:

New research could provide an insight into the way that babies understand the world around them and their place within it. A study led by Goldsmiths, University of London suggests that babies as young as six or seven months are able to actively respond to stimuli and understand them in relation to their own bodies.

In a series of tests, low-frequency buzzers were placed in the hands of babies. Six month old babies would respond to a buzzer being set off by pulling-back or shaking the hand which held the activated buzzer. The tests were repeated with older babies who also looked towards the stimulated hand, indicating a further developed visual awareness.

The babies’ arms were then crossed to see if they were able to appreciate that their hands, and the buzzes, were not in their usual place. The older cohort was more likely than the younger group to recognise that their hands had been crossed to the other side of their body when responding to an activated buzzer. The younger group made more mistakes, showing less awareness that their limbs had moved.

The results of this study suggest that at six months babies have some comprehension of the world around them and how they can respond to it. The study indicates that a spatial awareness of the body and its physical location, particularly where the limbs are, develops over the first year of life.

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