Ever wonder how your infant or toddler sees the world and everything around them?
New York Times recently reported that researchers are getting a clue as to how babies and children older than 5 months react to their surroundings. Strapped to the young “test subject’s” heads are lightweight cameras that record videos marked with crosshairs to show where the children are looking. Researchers then examine the data to determine the reason why young kids look (or don’t look) where they do.
The children are set loose crawling and waddling along into an obstacle course decked out with steps, slopes, gaps and various toys. As they figure out how to maneuver themselves around each other and through the course, cameras record where they tend to look in order to navigate themselves and as a result, capture a glimpse of their thought processes. In addition, some kids are sent into the course with variations such as slippery foot wear so researchers can watch how they react and adapt to challenges.
In spite of a few stubborn toddlers who refused to wear the cameras, researchers have managed to gather information from 70 children and already made a few significant observations. In one test with six 14 month old toddlers, researchers saw that around a quarter of obstacles met by these each toddler were not even glanced at when they moved past them. Comparatively, previous studies have shown that adults center their focus on obstacles a third of the time and four to eight year olds focus their gaze on obstacles 60 percent of the time. “…it’s remarkable that infants can even navigate [around objects]without looking,” researcher John Franchak said.
Another observation depicted that while in the obstacle course, infants only looked at their mothers 16 percent of the time. A prior study showed that children place an importance on watching the faces of adults as they learn to name objects around them. “These findings suggest children may not have to look very long to get the information they need, either from people or objects,” developmental psychologist Jeffrey Lockman of Tulane University said. “This gives new insights into how much information they need, or how quickly children might process this information.”
Researchers believe these observations are the first of countless valuable insights gained from these experiments that can tell us more about how babies and young children think. As researcher developmental psychologist Karen Adolph of NYU puts it, “This is a whole new way of asking questions that’s limited only by your imagination.”
Photo by Jenny Lee Silver of Flickr.