The inner workings of a baby's brain
New scientific research suggests that the mind of a baby is a humming, buzzing, supercharged learning machine.
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Jonah Lehrer is the author of "Proust was a Neuroscientist" and "How We Decide, " and on "The Takeaway," he talks about how we should interact with babies and support their developing minds.
Recently, Jonah talked about the science behind decision making on "The World" -- join an exclusive online discussion with him and other listeners at "The World" Science Forum.
New scientific research suggests that the mind of a baby is a humming, buzzing, supercharged learning machine, capable of taking in and processing enormous amounts of information. Now that we know this, how should we interact with babies and support their developing minds?
Jonah: "For so long we've seen babies just as unconscious, basically just as these lumps that just want to eat and cry and sleep, and now we think babies are actually more conscious than us. And this comes down to the particular ways babies pay attention. So one of my favorite metaphors for this concerns the idea of, adults pay attention using a spotlight, which means we shine a very bright spotlight on a very narrow slice of reality.
"Babies in contrast, use what's called a lantern mode of attention, which is that, even though their attention is maybe less focused, less fixated, they actually pay more attention to a greater range of things."
How we should think about interactions with babies and toddlers given the new research: "I think it's important to give babies lots of stimulation, I think to realize that babies are more hyperconscious. There was this great experiment done by a research team at the University of Michigan where they give people two decks of cards, and they tell people, pay attention to the left deck of cards and ignore the right deck of cards ... what you find is adults are very good at doing that ... if you quiz adults after the fact ... they have no memory of the deck of cards on the right. Little kids it turns out are much better at remembering the deck of cards on the right than adults, and that's simply because their lantern shines everywhere. They're more aware of things outside of this narrow spotlight of attention, and it's important to take that into account.
"Give babies something to look at, give them something to learn, give them ideas to put inside their heads to try to make sense of. And that can include everything from the Mozart symphony playing in the background, to something on the television, to the sound of your voice. There's nothing more important for a baby than ordinary social interactions."
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