Babies Show 'Mature' Response to Malfunctioning Toy

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Babies

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Researchers find babies have more reasoning powers than we suspect. Credit: Getty Images


When something goes wrong, you don't pitch a baby fit, you try to figure out exactly what happened and fix it.

That's the mature response, right?

Actually, it may be the right response, but don't pat yourself on the back for being mature. Even infants investigate and seek solutions when life doesn't go their way, reports show.

Hyowon Gweon and Laura Schulz at Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a study to find out how infants respond when a toy suddenly breaks down. NewScientist.com reports babies respond in much the same way as adults.

Gweon and Schultz presented 16-month-old babies with a toy with a button on top. When you press the button, music plays -- sometimes.

The babies watched as adults demonstrated the toy. It only played music half the time. When the children were given the toy, the buttons didn't work at all. The children quickly stopped playing with the toy and went on to something else.

So what?

These findings are actually very significant, according to Gweon and Schultz. It means babies quickly ascertained that the problem was because of the toy -- not themselves. Realizing they couldn't do anything different to make the toy worked, they moved on.

Metaphorically, they didn't keep butting their heads against the same wall. That is amazingly mature reasoning, the researchers tell NewScientist.

In another phase of the study, one child's toy always worked while another's always failed. The one with the faulty toy, sensing he might be doing something wrong, passed the toy back to an adult for help. That's also pretty amazing, Gweon tells the Website.

"The children are showing surprising competence in using statistical information to solve problems," Gweon says. "Our study shows that young babies are rational learners that possess powerful learning mechanisms that allow them to make generalizations from a small amount of data."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.