Babies Do See World Differently Than Adults

Study finds they make distinctions they may not make once they learn language

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THURSDAY, July 22, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Babies too young to speak see the world differently from adults, but they're capable of noticing distinctions they may not be able to make once they learn language, says an article in the July 22 issue of Nature.

Researchers found that 5-month-old infants reacted differently when watching objects being placed inside a container that fit either tightly or loosely. The infants looked at the objects longer when there was a change between a tight or loose fit.

However, English-speaking adults shown the same activity did not spontaneously make the same distinction.

The researchers theorized that's because such a distinction is not marked in English as it is in other languages, such as Korean. For instance, a pen on a table is perceived as just that in English, but in Korean it is considered a "loose fit" relationship between the two objects.

"Adults were glossing over the distinction that the babies were actually detecting," said co-author Sue Hespos, an assistant professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University.

"These findings suggest that humans possess a rich set of concepts before we learn language," added co-author Elizabeth Spelke, a professor of psychology at Harvard University. "Learning a particular language may lead us to favor some of the these concepts over others, but the concepts already existed before we put them into words."

More information

New York University has more about infant perception.

SOURCES: Vanderbilt University, news release, July 21, 2004

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