We've updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data.

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. You can read our Cookie Policy here.

Advertisement
Element of surprise helps babies learn
News

Element of surprise helps babies learn

Element of surprise helps babies learn
News

Element of surprise helps babies learn

Read time:
 

Want a FREE PDF version of This News Story?

Complete the form below and we will email you a PDF version of "Element of surprise helps babies learn"

First Name*
Last Name*
Email Address*
Country*
Company Type*
Job Function*
Would you like to receive further email communication from Technology Networks?

Technology Networks Ltd. needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, check out our Privacy Policy

Infants seek out more information about objects that defy expectations

Infants have innate knowledge about the world and when their expectations are defied, they learn best, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found.


In a paper published in the journal Science, cognitive psychologists Aimee E. Stahl and Lisa Feigenson demonstrate for the first time that babies learn new things by leveraging the core information they are born with. When something surprises a baby, like an object not behaving the way a baby expects it to, the baby not only focuses on that object, but ultimately learns more about it than from a similar yet predictable object.


"For young learners, the world is an incredibly complex place filled with dynamic stimuli. How do learners know what to focus on and learn more about, and what to ignore? Our research suggests that infants use what they already know about the world to form predictions. When these predictions are shown to be wrong, infants use this as a special opportunity for learning," said Feigenson, a professor of psychological and brain sciences in the university's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "When babies are surprised, they learn much better, as though they are taking the occasion to try to figure something out about their world."


The two researchers' study involved four experiments with preverbal 11-month-old babies, designed to determine whether babies learned more effectively about objects that defied their expectations. If they did, researchers wondered if babies would also seek out more information about surprising objects and if this exploration meant babies were trying to find explanations for the objects' strange behavior.


First the researchers showed the babies both surprising and predictable situations regarding an object. For instance, one group of infants saw a ball roll down a ramp and appear to be stopped by a wall in its path. Another group saw the ball roll down the ramp and appear to pass -- as if by magic -- right through the wall.


When the researchers gave the babies new information about the surprising ball, the babies learned significantly better. In fact, the infants showed no evidence of learning about the predictable ball. Furthermore, the researchers found that the babies chose to explore the ball that had defied their expectations, even more than toys that were brand new but had not done anything surprising.


The researchers found that the babies didn't just learn more about surprising objects -- they wanted to understand them. For instance, when the babies saw the surprising event in which the ball appeared to pass through the wall, they tested the ball's solidity by banging it on the table. But when babies saw a different surprising event, in which the ball appeared to hover in midair, they tested the ball's gravity by dropping it onto the floor. These results suggest that babies were testing specific hypotheses about the objects' surprising behavior.


"The infants' behaviors are not merely reflexive responses to the novelty of surprising outcomes, but instead reflect deeper attempts to learn about aspects of the world that failed to accord with expectations," said Stahl, the paper's lead author and a doctoral student in psychological and brain sciences.


"Infants are not only equipped with core knowledge about fundamental aspects of the world, but from early in their lives, they harness this knowledge to empower new learning."


Note: Material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

Johns Hopkins University   Original reporting by: Jill Rosen


Publication

Aimee E. Stahl, Lisa Feigenson. Observing the unexpected enhances infants’ learning and exploration.   Science, Published April 3 2015. doi: 10.1126/science.aaa3799


Advertisement