The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Babies watch & figure it out

Washington, Aug. 26 (AP): When a toy falls behind the chair has it vanished forever' The answer is no, of course, and a new study indicates babies can figure that out at a few months of age simply by watching.

Scott Johnson of New York University led a team that studied babies in an effort to determine when and how they realise that a rolling ball that disappears behind something is just playing peek-a-boo, and is going to reappear on the other side. “What’s truly amazing is how rapidly they’re able to pick up these concepts,” Johnson, who studied babies aged four months and six months, said in a statement.

The new findings, reported in this week’s online issue of Proceedings of The National Academy of Science, indicate that babies can learn simply by watching.

The researchers tested 48 four-month-olds and 32 six-month-olds. Each infant sat in a parent’s lap and watched a computer screen showing a moving ball. The babies’ eye movements were tracked and recorded by a special camera.

Four-month-old infants shown a ball that was obscured as it passed the centre of the screen had little ability to anticipate where or if it would reappear. Then they were shown the ball moving back and forth without being hidden at any time. After just two minutes of watching, the ball was again hidden in the middle of the screen. Most infants had learned to expect the ball to reappear, the researchers said.

When the team tested six-month-olds they found that many already grasped the idea that the ball would reappear, suggesting that they had already learned from real-world experience viewing objects that roll behind something.

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