8 Brilliant Ways Babies Are Way Smarter Than You Think

Think that your little one’s mind is an empty vessel just waiting to learn how to make it in the world? Think again!

June 6, 2017
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Ever wonder what’s going on in the mind of that cute and cuddly baby of yours? Well it’s a lot more that you might think! Researchers have found that babies don’t sit idly in buzzing confusion, but instead observe, explore, imagine, deduce, judge, and learn way more than we ever thought possible. As these studies have demonstrated, in some ways babies are actually smarter than adults!

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Unfortunately, most programs that are developed to help foster and develop more intelligence in babies are modeled the wrong way; they mimic programs for older kids by centering their curricula on focus, planning, and specific instruction. Unfortunately, babies don’t learn this way.

Research has shown that babies’ intelligence differs from adults in that they are terrible at planning and learning in order to reach certain goals. Babies are much more scattered than that. They often have trouble focusing on one event and shutting out the rest, which in the past has led many to believe that they are less intelligent than they actually are.

Until recently, babies’ abilities have been underestimated, but new research has shown that babies can be intelligent without being goal oriented.

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As Alison Gopnik, University of California, Berkeley, professor of psychology notes:

“The learning that babies and young children do on their own, when they carefully watch an unexpected outcome and draw new conclusions from it, ceaselessly manipulate a new toy or imagine different ways that the world might be, is very different from schoolwork. 

“Babies and young children can learn about the world around them through all sorts of real-world objects and safe replicas. Babies can learn a great deal just by exploring the ways bowls fit together or by imitating a parent talking on the phone.”

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Think you may be underestimating how intelligent your baby is? Here are eight ways that your baby is smarter than you think.

Babies understand how others are feeling.

According to a study published in Developmental Psychology, even infants who’ve never interacted with pets could match the different sounds that a dog makes to the corresponding facial expression and behavior.

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For example, they could match angry growls to dogs displaying threatening behavior and friendly play sounds to licking and happy body language. A study at Brigham Young University found that infants could also detect mood swings in Beethoven’s music.

Young babies know what words mean.

It was always believed that babies couldn’t pair images with their corresponding names (for example pairing a picture of a dog with the word “dog”) until 1 year of age. But a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania found that babies as young as 6 months old can successfully do this—even before they can speak!

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The researchers studied 6- to 9-month-old babies and had them look at pictures of foods and body parts while their parents gave them simple prompts such as “where are the eyes?” Surprisingly, the babies looked more at the item that was named than any of the other images, suggesting that they knew what the word meant.

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Think that your baby isn’t understanding what you’re saying? Think again—and keep talking to her!

Babies know when proper punishment is necessary.

This revelation was quite surprising! A study at the University of British Columbia found that babies as young as 8 months old know when someone is doing something wrong, and they like when they are punished for their wrongdoing.

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In the study, researchers used puppets to present different situations in which the puppets acted negatively or positively toward the other puppets. In response to their good or bad behavior, the puppets were either rewarded or punished by being given toys or having toys taken away from them.

The babies liked the puppets that punished the bad puppets for being naughty and disliked those that were nice to the bad puppets.

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The researchers think that this may be the building block of the social behaviors that kids express later on in life, such as frowning and tattling on kids who aren’t nice or do bad things. Interestingly, these findings would indicate that this trait is related to nature and not nurture.

Babies value altruism.

Babies always seem to want or need things, and they often scream or wail until they get them. But a new study found that toddlers are actually happier giving things away than getting them.

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In the study, researchers gave a group of toddlers goldfish crackers and instructed them to give them to a puppet. Then the toddlers were given an extra treat to give to the puppet (they could keep one and give one away).

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The researchers found that the kids were happier when they gave away their own treat as opposed to the extra one originally designated for the puppet. This behavior exhibited one of the most innate, loving traits of human nature: the desire and joy derived from giving to and helping others.

Toddlers are affected by peer pressure.

Remember what you used to exclaim to your parents as they yelled at you for doing something wrong? “But Mom…Dave and Mike were doing it too!” Apparently there’s a reason why kids do things in groups—they’re affected by peer pressure!

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A 2012 study published in the Journal of Cell Biology found that 2-year-olds copied the behavior (good or bad) of their friends, especially if three or more of them were doing it.

Young toddlers can gauge fairness.

Think you can pull the wool over your baby’s eyes and get away with it? Nope! You can’t. According to research done at the University of Washington, babies as young as 15 months know what’s equal and when something is not fair. In one study, scientists had babies watch videos in which milk or crackers were distributed equally or unequally between two people.

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When the distribution was unequal (not fair), the babies paid more attention, indicating that they could tell that it was so. Even more interesting was the behavior of the babies who were the most sensitive to the unequal distribution.

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After the study and in a subsequent one, these children were most likely to show signs of altruism and share their own toy—possibly trying to correct a wrong with a right?

Babies know when you’re speaking another language.

Scientists have known for a long time that infants and babies learn languages more easily than older kids and adults, but they never really knew why.

A study at the University of British Columbia shed some light on this in their findings that babies as young as 4 months can tell from visual cues (e.g., the shape and rhythm of the speaker’s mouth and facial movements) when a new language is being spoken.

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According to the university, babies growing up in bilingual and multilingual environments have an advantage over children who only speak one language: They learn and maintain throughout their lives the discrimination abilities needed for separating languages and learning multiple ones.

Babies’ brains thrive when they play music.

You’ve probably heard for years about the positive link between music and IQ, but further research shows that even young babies benefit from the exposure to playing musical instruments and actually making music.

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A Canadian study found that 1-year-old babies who took interactive music classes (in which they learned hand motions, “played” instruments, and sang songs) had better communication skills than babies who took a less active, less involved class.

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The kids in the interactive class were more interactive themselves and showed this by waving goodbye, pointing to objects that they found interesting or wanted, and exhibited less distress in unfamiliar surroundings.

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