Human infants capable of advanced reasoning

by Lin Edwards report
baby
Credit: CDC.gov

(Medical Xpress) -- Recent research reported in PhysOrg showed that babies seem to be able to distinguish right from wrong even at the age of six months, and consistently choose helpful characters over unhelpful ones. Now new research suggests very young children are also able to use advanced reasoning to solve problems.

Scientists Hyowon Gweon and Laura Schulz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US studied 83 16-month-old to find out if they could distinguish between events caused by themselves and outside influences and how the difference would affect their reactions to failed outcomes.

When adults try to achieve an outcome such as getting a piece of equipment to work, they can usually distinguish between failures caused by equipment deficits and those caused by their own lack of knowledge or skills. The results of the MIT research suggests that even young infants can also make the same distinction.

Gweon and Schulz tested their subjects using a toy with a button on top. When the button was pressed, the toy played music. They had two adult volunteers demonstrate the toy to the infants before giving the toy to the . When the adults pressed the button the first time the music played, but it failed to play on the second press. When the toy was given to the infants, they pressed the button, but no music played.

The results were that most of the children tested gave up quickly after only a few attempts, suggesting they realized the toy was faulty, rather than the fault lying within themselves.

In another experiment the two adults had different results, with one adult always succeeding in making the toy play music while the other always failed. In this test most of the children passed the toy to their to ask for help rather than discarding it in favor of a different toy, suggesting they reasoned there was nothing wrong with the toy, but like one of the , they were doing something wrong.

Gweon, a graduate student, said the study demonstrates that even very young children are able to solve problems by making generalizations from a small amount of information, and that they “possess powerful learning mechanisms” even at such a young age.

The study was published in the journal Science.

More information: 16-Month-Olds Rationally Infer Causes of Failed Actions, Hyowon Gweon, Laura Schulz, Science 24 June 2011:
Vol. 332 no. 6037 p. 1524. DOI: 10.1126/science.1204493

ABSTRACT
Sixteen-month-old infants (N = 83) rationally used sparse data about the distribution of outcomes among agents and objects to solve a fundamental inference problem: deciding whether event outcomes are due to themselves or the world. When infants experienced failed outcomes, their causal attributions affected whether they sought help or explored.

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Sinister1811
1 / 5 (1) Jun 24, 2011
There's hope for some people yet.
la7dfa
5 / 5 (1) Jun 24, 2011
"The results were that most of the children tested gave up quickly after only a few attempts, suggesting they realized the toy was faulty, rather than the fault lying within themselves."

Hard to tell if they loose interest because of boredom or wisdom?
hush1
3 / 5 (2) Jun 24, 2011
"...suggesting they realized..." - authors.
Yes. The list of suppositions is long:
Interest, boredom...etc., etc.
Everyone has 'forgotten' their first feelings and thoughts.
No apparent easy reconstruction available. Or? Yes. There is.

Kudos for interesting research.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Jun 24, 2011
Pehaps we actually " forget " the important things as we get older.
hush1
1 / 5 (2) Jun 24, 2011
Think about it.
The 'act' or 'event' of 'forgetting' has an underlying physical condition. Something has to 'happen' in order to forget. Unless I take a flame thrower to the brain, the process is reversible.
Isaacsname
1 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2011
Think about it.
The 'act' or 'event' of 'forgetting' has an underlying physical condition. Something has to 'happen' in order to forget. Unless I take a flame thrower to the brain, the process is reversible.

I disagree.

When we first " learn " something, it is consciously thought about, after memory takes place, muscle memory and all, certain tasks are relegated to the sub-conscious processes.

My own personal view is that as technology has outpaced biology, we are born into a world that is no longer what the brain has been used to for a very long time. It has been imprinted genetically with our environs, and born into a world that is no longer exactly what it is given a set of instructions for, genetically.

Thus, we spend our lives going against our genetic programming, which comes from the brain evolving in a very different set of circumstances.
hush1
1 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2011
"...certain tasks are relegated to the sub-conscious processes." - Ic

"...relegated to..." = filed away. You are CONSCIOUSLY not aware of what is in your 'filing cabinet'(brain) - irrelevant. You are aware of a filing cabinet (brain) - 'Filing' is not 'forgetting'.

Your comments makes no sense.

"The brain has been imprinted genetically with our environs."-Ic

If you are saying Nature selected carbon as the 'paper' for 'blueprints' we call 'Life', fine.

"...as technology has outpaced biology..." - Ic

If you are saying WE selected an element BESIDES carbon as the 'paper' for 'blueprints' we call 'Life', fine. So?

Why are you so despondent? We are able to create 'Life' that departs from the material selection Nature has chosen by evolution. So?

If that 'Life' is 'greater' than our 'Life', so what? Every created extension of ourselves is greater than what we are.

Your fear - that creating 'Life' greater than our own is somehow dangerous and/or humiliates us, is irrational.

alanborky
not rated yet Jun 25, 2011
Apparently, none of you on here can remember your babyhood in the way some people like me can.

That wouldn't necessarily be a problem if you'd had kids - as I have - because one of the things that strike me as slightly odd about this report is not how sentient the kids are proving to be - they're astoundingly so if you're willing to expend time and patience on them - but how quickly the kids gave up on the un-musical toy.

These kids must've been remarkable for their lack of imagination, because normally kids investigate every aspect of new toys, colour, texture, weight, even smell and taste.

Everyone knows the syndrome where the kid spends far more time investigating the wrapping and the box the Christmas present came in, rather than playing with the actual toy itself.

So that leads me to suspect there must've been some alternative on offer - that, or they were already highly acquainted with the toys, possibly on an intermittent basis.
Isaacsname
1 / 5 (1) Jun 25, 2011
Hush you are so far out in left-field about my beliefs or " fears " it almost makes me curious why you bother single me out to respond to. If you truly have convinced yourself that I am a dolt, then skip over my comments. And no, that's not at all what I meant by what said, if you read it and took it at face value instead of trying to read between the lines, you'd see my simple statements state everything I think quite clearly. It is not my failure that when I am talking about something like memetics and changes to systems and chaos, for example( in our dialogue about consciousness/perception ), you don't understand I am making reference to the Feigenbaum constant, which I am seeing is not my shortcoming, or yours really, just a lack of time and space to talk at length about these wide-spanning topics, plus the fact English is not your native language, iirc. I think we'd find we actually agree on many things were we able to talk freely and at length. Too many things, too little space.
hush1
1 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2011
Isaac:

"plus the fact English is not your native language" - Ic

Let me clear up this lack of understanding.
When you are raised from birth bilingually, the concept of native language is meaningless.

Is that clear? Ask any bilingual raised from birth that way.
That is my first point. Please do not forget this.

"If you truly have convinced yourself that I am a dolt, then skip over my comments."

I point to the fallacies in your logic and you take this personally. I will continue to point out your fallacies in logic. I will not skip over comments disagreeing with me directly - which you did.

If I took your comments at face value, they become senseless. I attempt to make sense of your comments. If you are offended that anyone attempts to make sense of your comments, you can view this feedback as useful. You do not.

It is possible we agree on many things. We will never know. Why? You feel there are too many things and too little space. Truly sad that your own thoughts..
cont...
hush1
1 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2011
cont...
Truly sad that your own thoughts lack enough value to make up for the "lack of time and space to talk at length". They are just not that important to you.

If you make inferred, unspoken references, you are not being explicit, you are being obtuse.

"you don't understand I am making reference to the Feigenbaum constant, which I am seeing is not my shortcoming, or yours really"

Of course I do not understand. No one can know you made an unspoken reference to Feigenbaum.
hush1
1 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2011
@alanborky

Most all the comments point out the weakest link in this research:
You can only guess as to the reason the toy was abandon.

You use 168 words to state the above sentence.
The sentence above has 12 words.
Isaacsname
1 / 5 (1) Jun 26, 2011
Well, then if you are happy with your interpetations, so be it, but for you to ascribe logic when you don't understand the concept is purely trivial.
hush1
1 / 5 (2) Jun 26, 2011
The "logic ascribed" is inquiry. I state I do not understand you. And I attempt, through questioning, to understand what you really want to say. You state you have neither the "time" nor "space to talk at length" about what you say.

Where did I state I am "happy with my interpretations"? Where are those words in my statements? Or are those your words?

The only "concept" I do not understand is the "concept" you want to state with your comments. It is logical to question a concept one does not understand. I question you. You take offense:

"...it almost makes me curious why you bother single me out to respond to..."

I now know the source of all misunderstanding coming from you:

You state you have neither the "time" nor "space to talk at length" about what you say.
This is your shortcoming.

And it is no surprise that no one will ever understand what you say.
Callippo
not rated yet Jun 26, 2011
They're apparently losing their ability later, when they met with downvoting buttons at the internet discussions.
hush1
1 / 5 (2) Jun 26, 2011
lol
Classical conditioning.
Isaacsname
1 / 5 (1) Jul 01, 2011
lol
Classical conditioning.


Of course. I concede. You win. I'm not to sure what you've won, as I still hold my same views, but all the same give yourself a pat on the back. While your at it, pressing your vote buttons, just think about Pavlov laughing at you, I know I do.

:)
hush1
1 / 5 (2) Jul 02, 2011
The objective of articles and commentary is to gain understanding. Not to change anyone's view. Or to win anything besides insight and knowledge.

I rate humor if I can ascertain the humor doesn't pass judgement from poking fun. Where I see commentary invoking questions over my own thoughts, I am inclined to rate - in appreciation of thoughts provoking further thought.

Otherwise, I give ratings no value and rate as little as possible. I read all comments. Laughter that mocks is not laughter.

Of all who have rated here on this specific thread you have rated the most. I don't need to judge (rate) over commentary simply because they contain error. It suffices to point out error and leave judgement to others who feel less secure.

:)