There’s a new book (The Philosophical Baby, Alison Gopnik) about babies and their brain development that apparently tries to describe what it’s like to be in their heads. Babies can understand a lot more than we think they can, but unlike us grownups, they can’t focus on what they want to understand. We can block out distractions, but babies can’t. Anything in their environment is an instant point of interest; they are going to check it out. But they are a little more sophisticated than that, as this summary of the book explains:
One focus of recent research has been on “naive physics”: Studies have shown that babies know that objects continue to exist once out of sight and that those objects are solid and cohesive and subject to gravity. And that’s not all: Babies understand cause-and-effect relationships. They can figure out simple addition and subtraction.
This jives with our recent observations of the Bean: when she hears Quinn’s collar bell jingle, she starts looking around on the floor and the windowsills, typical places where the cat is usually found. If Quinn walks by, Bean will track her, and if the cat passes behind some barrier– a table, Dad, a chair– Bean will look at the other side of the barrier, clearly anticipating that the cat will soon appear there. Common knowledge has held that babies don’t get this before they’re nearly a year old, but new research is proving this wrong.
I’m not surprised: babies are tiny humans. Humans are clever. So don’t go repeating your PIN number in front of the baby.