Published on January 6th, 2013 | by Brian Gendron
Are You Smarter than an Infant?
7 mostly recent and mostly incredible infant cognition studies showing how awesome and advanced babies really are.
#7. They know good looks when they see ‘em.
Numerous studies have shown that infants have a preference for attractive faces, which develops long before any media molding takes place. How do we know? Because they stare significantly longer at attractive faces compared to ugly faces. We assume staring longer represents attraction, since most people don’t voluntarily subject themselves to cruel and unusual punishment, and we might assume from some of the aforementioned list points that babies are attracted to what’s good (see #3). Facial attractiveness, which for the most part boils down to symmetry, is arguably a good thing when it comes to health, evolutionarily speaking. Babies also prefer female faces over male faces, but this preference only holds if the female is of the same race (see #5). Babies are picky!
#6. Babies would NOT eat what Bin Laden ate.
In a 2012 study, 16-month old infants were given their choice of one of two brand new, never before eaten types of food, each deemed very appealing to the novice eater. Prior to the infants’ decision, the source of the food (a character in a puppet-show) behaved in either a good or a bad manner and also ate and reacted to the aforementioned food. [In this study, and many others like it, the characters are not actual people, but instead researchers use puppets or cardboard cutouts to present a scenario to the incognizant tot. Similar versions of this experiment, which were used for many of the following studies as well, can be seen in the video clips here.] After all that, infants were more likely to take food suggestions from the good characters as opposed to the negative/bad. Infants were even more likely to take suggestions from new or unknown characters over negative ones.
#5. Infants aren’t fond of others who are different.
You can’t even utter “Hello” but you are already rejecting diversity? Shame on you, infants! Indeed, pre-language infants display characteristics of in-group bias. In the study that garnished these results, published in the peer-reviewed journal Cognition, infants showed preference for characters in a puppet show with even trivial things in common with themselves. And you thought that kind of thing started in high school?
#4. No, you are NOT smarter than an infant.
That is, if you measure intelligence based on the ability to perceive phonemes. Phonemes are those tiny pieces of sound that make up a language. Adults are terrible at discriminating between different sounds in languages other than their own. Babies, however, can detect even the slightest difference in other languages. Unfortunately, the reduction in ability starts fast–studies demonstrate significant declines within the first year of life, irrespective of culture. If parents hope to raise a bilingual child, earlier exposure to a second language should make it significantly easier to acquire.