Saturday, June 4, 2011

Babies Are Capable of Complex Reasoning

          The attached article illustrates the significance of various studies that demonstrate the enormous reasoning capacity of infants less than a year old. Studies like these reaffirm how important it is to maintain continuous verbal communication with infants from the time they are born, while at the same time, further dispelling the belief that infants younger than a year old only have the mental capacity to respond to baby-talk, funny faces and tickling.
Interpersonal communication begins even before the infant recognizes the exact meaning of words. It is the repetition and body language accompanying the language that serves to demonstrate the meaning of the words being spoken. Letting a child know that it is time to change their diaper, and continuing to do so in a patient and loving manner while letting them know what you are doing, is an ideal way to use daily activities to demonstrate communication.
Formulating simple, logical questions and giving the child a moment to respond builds their ability to maintain a dialogue. Asking, for example, “Are you hungry? I cooked oatmeal. Would you like some?” While at the same time showing them the plate of oatmeal, or even responding to events taking place at that very moment such as, “ Oh! I dropped the spoon.” You might notice the child following the action with their eyes.
Closely observing and responding to their body language and demeanor allows us to have a two-way communication with the child as we would, by using words, with any other human being. Not paying close attention to their actions, the way they attempt to express their needs, means we have to rely solely on suspicions and guesses.
Such an understanding of the ways your child communicates can only come as a result of close observation and patience. Crying is one of the first ways a child communicates their discomfort. Trying to quiet them by shaking them, gaging them with a pacifier, or shushing them is a very dismissive, if not selfish, attitude to take when attempting to foster a relationship of communication based on respect.
        Speaking to a child with respect implies that you are treating them as you would any other human being with the capacity, which as the article confirms they do have, to absorb information and respond. Again, we must always keep in mind that the time it takes for an infant to process and formulate some sort of response will vary from that of an adult.
As Dr. Kuhl ( demonstrates, flashcards, computer programs and videos for infants do little if anything to help a child’s mental development and pale in comparison to good ol’ person-to-person communication.
             It is important to keep in mind that putting this into practice, like all parts of raising a child requires patience and time. There are no shortcuts to parenting. However, communicating with your child from the moment of birth can have a lasting impact on their growth throughout their education as well as in their own social networks.

Date: 26 May 2011 Time: 02:00 PM ET

               Babies are sophisticated mini-statisticians, a new study finds, capable of making judgments about the probability of an event they've never seen before.
Using a computer model, researchers were able to accurately predict what a baby would know about a particular event if given certain information. The model may be useful in engineering artificial intelligence that reacts appropriately to the world, said study researcher Josh Tenenbaum, a cognitive scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The study also demonstrates just how savvy baby brains are, Tenenbaum told LiveScience.
"The deeper thing that this shows is that infants' knowledge of objects is not a gut feeling," he said. "They're actually doing some kind of rational, probabilistic reasoning."
You were expecting … ?
Years of research have shown that young babies grasp all sorts of information, from the fact that physical objects can't blink in and out of existence to how social hierarchies work. One 2009 study even found that 6-month-olds can tell the difference between a friendly and an angry dog.
These studies typically rely on a method called "violation in expectation," in which researchers monitor babies' gazes as they look at normal and atypical scenarios. If a baby looks longer at an event or situation in which something is "off" (a big, strong cartoon character bowing down to a weakling, for example), that fascinated gaze indicates that the baby knows the situation is unusual.
But Tenenbaum and his colleagues wanted to go further, actually quantifying how "surprising" a given event is based on the probability of it happening. Then they wanted to see if the level of babies' surprise matched the improbability of a given situation.
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