Joseph Castro, LiveScience Staff Writer
01/24/2012 06:22 PM EST
Most studies into infant cognition employ eye-tracking technology — psychologists can tease out what an infant is thinking and what she considers to be unexpected by following her gaze in different scenarios. This method, called violation of expectation, involves showing babies photos, videos or events that proceed as expected, followed by others that break everyday rules. If the infant understands the implicit rules, he or she will show little interest in an expected situation, but will stare at images of a surprising event.
But at what point in their development do babies begin to understand how the physical world works?
“We believe that infants are born with expectations about the objects around them, even though that knowledge is a skill that’s never been taught,” Kristy vanMarle, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, said in a statement. “As the child develops, this knowledge is refined and eventually leads to the abilities we use as adults.”
To come to this conclusion, vanMarle and her colleague, Susan Hespos, a psychologist at Northwestern University, reviewed infant cognition research conducted over the last 30 years. They found that infants already have an intuitive understanding of certain physical laws by 2 months of age, when they start to track moving objects with both eyes consistently and can be tested with eye-tracking technology.
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