Proof That Babies Are a Lot Smarter Than They Look
Throughout history, babies haven’t exactly been known for their intelligence, and they can't really communicate what's going on in their minds. However, recent studies are demonstrating that babies learn and process things much faster than people initially thought.
We’re now learning that babies quickly develop basic forms of rational and logical thinking, in addition to being able to do even more complex things, like detect emotions. Discover some other ways babies keep surprising us with their intelligence.
A Baby's Classification Skills Are on Point
Babies see commonalities in objects, and as soon as they have enough experience in the world, they begin to classify things or put them into groups. This happens around the one-year mark because babies have some semblance of language.
Toddlers Can Distinguish Who the Smart Adults Are
Everything babies know, they learn from observing the world around them. And they’re almost continually watching during their waking hours. As it turns out, all that observation pays off pretty quickly. By preschool time, toddlers can figure out which adults are likely to provide them with reliable information and which ones aren't.
Peer Pressure Affects Babies, Too
The journal Cell Biology published a study in 2012 that found that toddlers are influenced by peer pressure — much the same as kids and adults are. They want to copy the behavior of their peers more often when more of them are doing something rather than just one other baby is.
Babies Can Detect New Languages
The shape a person's mouth makes and the movements of their face help babies discern one language from another, according to a study by the University of British Columbia. This is partly why it's so easy for babies to learn more than one language at a time.
Playing Music Helps Babies Thrive Intellectually
The fact that music is related to IQ isn't news to anyone at this point, but now research has taken it a step further. Not only does listening to music bring intellectual benefits to a baby, but a Canadian study has also found that making music is helpful, too.
Newborn Babies Can Count
Babies seem to be born with a sense of numbers and an innate ability to count just after leaving the womb. A 2009 French and American study determined this through an experiment using sounds. Researchers played newborns two different sequences of sounds, one of four sounds and one of 12 sounds.
Babies Understand Others’ Emotions
Whether it's a peer, an animal or an adult, babies understand how others feel. They do this through body language primarily, notes a study published in Developmental Psychology. In fact, research indicates that infants pay more attention to angry faces and tend to look away from sad faces.
Babies Get Joy From the Act of Giving
It makes babies and young kids much happier to give than to take. One study consisted of giving toddlers crackers and also giving crackers to puppets. When the toddlers had additional crackers to share with the puppets so both could have a special treat, they were much happier.
Young Infants Know What Some Words Mean
Before they’re a year old, babies can link objects to the names of those objects. We know this thanks to a University of Pennsylvania study that showed some babies can start doing this at around six months old. How did researchers figure this out?
Young Toddlers Know What's Fair and What Isn't
A University of Washington study showed that, from around 15 months of age, babies can distinguish fairness from what’s unfair. Researchers were able to see this from having the babies watch videos with milk or crackers. When the foods were unevenly distributed, the babies paid more attention, showing they can tell the difference.
Babies Are Already Learning to Walk in the Womb
A newborn's motor skills aren’t developed enough for them to begin walking right away, but that doesn't mean they don't know how. You can test out this theory quite easily. Hold a baby under their armpits and rest the soles of their feet on the ground, tilting them slightly forward.
Toddlers Read the Looks on People's Faces for Information
The facial expressions of trusted adults help toddlers learn the appropriate ways to react with the world. They’re actually "reading" faces to gain information. Here's a good example: It’s not uncommon to see a one-year-old baby look at their mother's face when someone new approaches. They look to Mom to see whether or not the stranger is friendly.
Babies Know When Someone Is Smiling at Them and Smile Back
It might seem like babies copy adult behaviors in general, but that’s not always the case. When a baby’s mom smiles at them — specifically at them — they’ll smile back. If Mom smiles without directing it at the baby, the baby won't smile back.
Babies Get a Kick out of Watching Bad People Get Punished
Who’d have thought that babies would enjoy justice being served? Research from the University of British Columbia acted out various scenarios to babies, some as young as eight months old, using puppets, with the puppets either acting in positive or negative ways to one another.
Infants Enjoy and Are Mentally Stimulated by Hearing People Talk
Talking to babies isn't just to please adults. Babies of all ages, including newborns, actually enjoy it when people talk to them. A baby's brain is developing so rapidly that hearing people talk helps to stimulate their intellectual growth, and babies enjoy the process of getting smarter.
Babies Can Develop Theories About People, Objects, Animals and Numbers
Babies can guess with some accuracy how likely something is to happen. In one study, babies saw a box of red balls with only a few white balls. When the box was emptied, the babies showed surprise when all of the falling balls were white.
Newborns Can Understand Physics
Advancements in technology have allowed scientists to discern what a newborn is thinking with machines that read brain activity, even though the babies can't communicate directly. Studies show that a newborn watching a toy car going through a wall stares intently and longer than they do when watching things that don't defy the laws of physics.
Toddlers Realize the Complexity of Desire
The first thing a baby does in its worldly existence is learn about human psychology, more specifically, emotions. At around 18 months old, after a whole year and a half of thinking that everyone wants the same things they do, something changes. It’s at this age that they realize different people have different desires.
Babies Respond to Their "Gut Feelings"
At only 20 months old, babies have already begun a complex way of thinking known as metacognition, according to this Paris study. That is, they’re able to have and respond to their own "gut feelings." Adults commonly engage in metacognition when a problem comes up that they’re unsure how to solve.
Young Infants Can Recognize Faces
It only takes one week after being born for a baby to recognize their mother's face. By the time babies are six months old, they're pretty much experts at recognizing faces. Research from the University of Sheffield found that six-month-old babies are even better at recognizing faces than adults.
Infants Have Already Begun to Understand When Others Have Like Thoughts and Emotions
Babies can understand how people's minds work. They can discern when someone has feelings or thoughts that are similar to what they’re feeling and thinking. This happens as a result of experience. They see others having a positive or negative response and can understand if it’s the same or different from their own.
Intuitive Analysis Isn’t Out of a Baby's Reach
The way babies learn to construct language and speak has to do with a kind of intuitive analysis that involves statistics. They hear regularities in speech and can differentiate between certain sounds and other sounds to identify them. They may not realize they’re differentiating, but they really are.
Infants Can Tell When Communication and Attention Are Directed at Them
When an adult makes eye contact, infants can detect it. The way people speak in different pitches and intonations alerts infants to when others are interacting with them. They can also tell when someone is directly responding to something they did. When this occurs, infants pay special attention.
Babies Use Their Eyes With a Purpose
A baby's visual ability is excellent, particularly when it comes to communicating. Babies purposely do things with their eyes to get what they want. They make eye contact, shut their eyes, look past someone and deliberately explore with their eyes.
The Empathy Babies Can Have for Struggling Adults Is Astounding
When a baby sees an adult struggling, their impulse is to try and help. This shows that babies understand struggle. Young babies have this perception and understanding, even if they don't yet have the skills to do anything about it.
Infants Can Do Math
At just six months old, babies can understand basic arithmetic — addition and subtraction. A study performed a puppet show with two puppets. When the show ended, one puppet exited the stage, and the curtain dropped. Upon reopening the curtain for the first time, only one puppet was left on stage.
Babies Use Their Own Sign Language
Babies create their own sign language to show they’re still hungry or full. They show gratitude and express politeness, all without being able to talk. When an adult responds, they get confirmation and develop the ability to reason that they’ve found a way to "say" what it is that they want.
Babies Register When They Need Help
A study at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics found that babies determine when they need help. They gave eight-month-old babies toys, placing some of them just beyond the babies’ reach and some way out of their reach. When the babies had parents in the room, they tried for the toy that was farther away.
Babies Know the Difference Between Real Objects and Pictures
In a study from Royal Holloway's psychology department, researchers showed eight- and nine-month-old babies a picture of a toy. The researchers showed the babies the actual toy plus a new toy. Both toys were put in separate containers — half in transparent containers and half in opaque boxes.
Babies Have Causal Reasoning Skills
One researcher looked into whether or not babies could identify causal relationships. The experiment involved the researcher and another adult playing with a toy. When the other adult played with the toy, it worked, but when the researcher played with it, the toy didn't work.