Parents are often amazed at how fast their child grows and develops. New research at the University of Missouri has
determined that the ability to quantify â€“ even things that are hard to quantify, such as liquid â€“ may develop much sooner than most parents realize.
University of Missouri researcher Kristy vanMarle, an assistant professor http://psychology.missouri.edu/vanmarlek> in the Department of Psychological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science
With the assistance of other researchers from her team, vanMarle tested the quantifying skills of babies by presenting infants with two opaque cups: one containing a small amount of food, and one containing a larger amount. Consistently, the babies chose the larger amount, as long as that amount was substantially more than the smaller amount. Her latest paper, â€œTracking and Quantifying Objects and Non-cohesive Substances,â€ chronicles these findings and has been accepted for
publication in the journal Developmental Science.
â€œSeveral studies throughout the last 15 years have shown that infants are very good at telling how many objects they see; however, infants didnâ€™t seem to count things
like water or sand,â€ vanMarle said. â€œWhat weâ€™re saying is that they can quantify substances; itâ€™s just much harder. The infants can see how much food goes into each
cup and compare that in their memories. They decide which amount is larger, and they almost always select the larger one.â€
This information further refutes the long-held idea that babies are â€œblank slates that know nothing of the world,â€ vanMarle said.
â€œSince psychologists have begun studying infants with sensitive measures, weâ€™ve revealed a lot of early competencies that people didnâ€™t know were there. I think for
parents, it should be exciting to know that thereâ€™s somebody in there that has some fundamental and basic knowledge of the world, and that knowledge is guiding their
development and expectations,â€ vanMarle said.
In the future, vanMarle says this kind of study could be linked to a childâ€™s progress in math-related skills, although she says that programs marketed to
increase those abilities, such as â€œBaby Einstein,â€ still have mixed reviews when it comes to scholarly study and results.
â€œWe know a great deal about infantâ€™s perceptual abilities from very early on, even before birth, really,â€ vanMarle said. â€œWe know that babies prefer high-contrast
images, for example, because they can see them better. But whether or not those types of programs actually confer any intellectual benefit â€“ I think the research is
not really clear.â€
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