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Can Babies Read Minds?

OK, this is super cool. Apparently, babies are more tuned in to adult behavior that was previously suspected. A new study of kids across cultures, shows that children as young as 19 months can predict adult behavior using a classic false-belief test. Here’s a description of the test according to the Huffington Post:

In the classic test of children’s understanding called the false-belief task, one person comes into a room and puts an object (such as a pair of scissors) into a hiding place. A second person then comes in and puts the scissors into his pocket, unbeknownst to the first individual. When that first person returns, someone will ask the child, “Where do you think the first person will look for the scissors?”

Generally, kids 4-7 years old can predict that the first person will return and look in the place where the scissors had been left because they didn’t know the second person had moved them. Kids younger than that had not responded t the questions well but recently researchers watched babies as young as 19 months for non-verbal cues in this false-belief scenario and the results were surprising:

The team created a live-action play with a very similar set-up to the classic false-belief test: A man leaves some scissors hidden in a box, while another person comes in and puts them into his pocket.

During the play, as he is pocketing the scissors, the second person pauses, “chin in hand, looking at the ceiling and says, ‘Hmm, I wonder where they’ll look for the scissors,’” Barrett told LiveScience.

The researchers then video recorded the children’s reactions to the play.

The youngsters consistently looked at the box, showing that the little ones expected the first man to search for the scissors where he had left them. Understanding what the first person believes, and also what he doesn’t know, required the children to make sophisticated inferences about other people’s knowledge.

How cool is that? Babies and very young toddlers may not be able to verbally project their understanding of how adults usually behave but they can still figure out how scenarios are likely to end based on their own observations. As a mom, this doesn’t come as a huge surprise because I’ve always felt that my babies were watching closely and figuring stuff out. It’s cool to have science confirm that babies are just as smart as moms have always thought!

Read more from Rebekah at Mom-in-a-Million The Broad Side. Follow Rebekah on Facebook and Twitter too!

Photo credit: photo stock

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