Ever look into your baby’s eyes and wonder what’s going on upstairs? Well, it may be much more than you think.
Our babies’ brains develop at an amazing rate—they fully double in size from birth until one. And a baby’s brain has around about 1,000 trillion synapses (or a quadrillion, for all you math majors), which is twice as many as a typical adult has.
Here are 6 awesome examples of just how smart babies really are.
1. They know when someone’s speaking a different language
How, exactly? From the look of the speaker’s face! A University of British Columbia study found that, at just four months, infants pick up on visual cues such as the shape of the speaker’s mouth and the movement of their face. Moreover, babies under six months old can differentiate sounds from different languages much better than adults can. But this only lasts for the first six months of life, suggesting that the ability to easily pick up multiple language is a case of “use it or lose it.”
2. They succumb to peer pressure
A study published in Cell Biology found that two-year-olds were more likely to imitate a behavior if three or more of her peers were doing it as opposed to just one. So if you want your toddler to eat well, take naps, and be gentle and kind, surround him or her with good-eating, well-behaved friends.
3. They empathize with others’ feelings
A study at Brigham Young University found that babies are able to detect changes in mood of Beethoven’s music. The same research lab found that babies can match angry dog barks and friendly dog sounds with corresponding photos of dogs displaying threatening or friendly body language.
4. They understand what words mean
Conventional wisdom holds that babies don’t make the link between objects and their names until the baby is at least a year old. But it turns out they begin to understand at about six months of age, long before they can speak. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania showed babies images of body parts and had parents ask them questions such as, “Where are the eyes?” The babies looked at the forrest body part longer than any other, suggesting that they know the meaning of the word. More good reason to talk to your baby!
5. They’re intrinsically generous(!)
So much for the all the selfish cries of “mine!” A recent study found that, the more generous a baby is, the happier they are. Researchers gave babies a single cracker and asked them to give it to a puppet. Then they gave the child two crackers and asked them to give just one to a puppet. After measuring the child’s response, they found that the babies were happier when they gave the single cracker away as opposed to sharing crackers. In a press release, the research university suggested that this pleasure of helping others in need is innate human emotion.
6. They know what’s fair… and what isn’t
At just over a year old, babies can tell when someone’s getting the short end of the stick. Researchers at the University of Washington had toddlers watch videos of a group of people receiving milk and crackers – in equal and unequal measure. The toddlers were more attentive to the unequal distribution, suggesting that they were aware of and surprised by the discrepancy.
Interesting note: The children most attuned to this milk and cracker injustice were more likely to share their toys and make other unselfish displays in subsequent studies.
Looking for more proof of how smart babies are?
Pick up a copy of The Scientist in the Crib (it’s available used on Amazon for $.01). A friend gave us this book before Griffin was born, and we breezed right through it. It’s an insightful look at how much babies know and learn – and how much we instinctually teach them. It’s also fascinating to see how scientists study very young babies. For example, they can test an infant’s interest in things by measuring how quickly or slowly they suck a pacifier.
How about you?
Has your baby ever surprised you with her smarts? Has he just “known” something without you teaching him? Share with us in the comments below!