Thursday, February 2, 2012

Babies are Newtonians?

Following an earlier post noting the apparent Bayesian tendencies of babies, we now have word for fellow University of Missouri professor Kristy vanMarle that babies have innate knowledge of Newtonian physics.
From the Yahoo News summary "Infants Grasp Gravity with Innate Sense of Physics":
"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.
For instance, at this age they understand that unsupported objects will fall (gravity) and hidden objects don't cease to exist. In one test, researchers placed an object inside of a container and moved the container; 2-month-old infants knew that the hidden object moved with the container.
This innate "physics" knowledge only grows as the infants experience their surroundings and interact more with the world. By 5 months of age, babies understand that solid objects have different properties than noncohesive substances, such as water, the researchers found.
Note: Regular readers will notice that I have given into the Google/Blogger renovations and opted for the white background. Also, I have enabled mobile formatting for easy access to this blog on mobile devices.

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