Infants can't distinguish between large and small groups: study
Human brains process large and small numbers of objects using two different mechanisms, but infants have not yet developed the ability to make those two processes work together, according to new research from the University of Missouri.
"This research was the first to show the inability of infants in a single age group to discriminate large and small sets in a single task," said Kristy vanMarle, assistant professor of psychological sciences in the College of Arts and Science. "Understanding how infants develop the ability to represent and compare numbers could be used to improve early education programs."
The MU study found that infants consistently chose the larger of two groups of food items when both sets were larger or smaller than four, just as an adult would. Unlike adults, the infants showed no preference for the larger group when choosing between one large and one small set. The results suggest that at age one infants have not yet integrated the two mental functions: one being the ability to estimate numbers of items at a glance and the other being the ability to visually track small sets of objects.
In vanMarle's study, 10- to 12-month-old infants were presented with two opaque cups. Different numbers of pieces of breakfast cereal were hidden in each cup, while the infants observed, and then the infants were allowed to choose a cup. Four comparisons were tested between different combinations of large and small sets. Infants consistently chose two food items over one and eight items over four, but chose randomly when asked to compare two versus four and two versus eight.
"Being unable to determine that eight is larger than two would put an organism at a serious disadvantage," vanMarle said. "However, ongoing studies in my lab suggest that the capacity to compare small and large sets seems to develop before age two."
The ability to make judgments about the relative number of objects in a group has old evolutionary roots. Dozens of species, including some fish, monkeys and birds have shown the ability to recognize numerical differences in laboratory studies. VanMarle speculated that being unable to compare large and small sets early in infancy may not have been problematic during human evolution because young children probably received most of their food and protection from caregivers. Infants' survival didn't depend on determining which bush had the most berries or how many predators they just saw, she said.
"In the modern world there are educational programs that claim to give children an advantage by teaching them arithmetic at an early age," said vanMarle. "This research suggests that such programs may be ineffective simply because infants are unable to compare some numbers with others."
More information: VanMarle's research was published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
Provided by University of Missouri-Columbia
- Researcher studies how infants compare quantities Dec 01, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Babies are born with 'intuitive physics' knowledge, researcher says Jan 24, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Infants taught to maintain ability to distinguish between other-race groups May 19, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Scientists study infant perception Mar 19, 2007 | not rated yet | 0
- Study shows 3-month-olds are sensitive to emotional cues referring to objects in the world Jun 11, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
1 hour ago From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
18 hours ago I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
(HealthDay)—Most Medicare beneficiaries treated in inpatient psychiatric facilities (IPFs) exhibit characteristics associated with hospital readmission, according to a report prepared for the National Association ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 14 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Skydivers show the same level of physical stress before every jump whether a first-timer or experienced jumper, say Northumbria researchers.
Psychology & Psychiatry 14 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Children of depressed parents pick up on their parents' sadness—whether mom or dad realizes their mood or not.
Psychology & Psychiatry 19 hours ago | 4.5 / 5 (2) | 1 |
(HealthDay)—As many as one in five American children under the age of 17 has a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, according to a new federal report.
Psychology & Psychiatry May 16, 2013 | 2 / 5 (4) | 1 |
(Medical Xpress)—Whether we're listening to Bach or the blues, our brains are wired to make music-color connections depending on how the melodies make us feel, according to new research from the University ...
Psychology & Psychiatry May 16, 2013 | not rated yet | 0 |
Big names in medicine are set to give an upbeat assessment of the war on AIDS on Tuesday, 30 years after French researchers identified the virus that causes the disease.
2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
The neural machinery underlying our olfactory sense continues to be an enigma for neuroscience. A recent review in Neuron seeks to expand traditional ideas about how neurons in the olfactory bulb might encode information about ...
14 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—What if the quality of your work depends more on your focus on the piano keys or canvas or laptop than your musical or painting or computing skills? If target users can be convinced, they ...
15 hours ago | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
For combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 'fear circuitry' in the brain never rests
Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or ...
3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
In 2008 researchers from the University of Southern Denmark showed that the drug thioridazine, which has previously been used to treat schizophrenia, is also a powerful weapon against antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as ...
12 hours ago | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—Working with lab mice models of multiple sclerosis (MS), UC Davis scientists have detected a novel molecular target for the design of drugs that could be safer and more effective than current FDA-approved ...
12 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0 |