Washington: The brains
of infants come primed with "intuitive physics," inspite of their
seeming helplessness and rounds of eating, crying and sleeping.
"We believe that infants are born with expectations about the
objects around them, even though that knowledge is a skill that's
never been taught," said Kristy vanMarle, assistant professor of
psychological sciences at the Missouri University's College of
Arts and Science.
"Intuitive physics include skills that adults use all the time.
For example, when a glass of milk falls off the table, a person
might try to catch the cup, but they are not likely to try to
catch the milk that spills out, said vanMarle, who co-authored the
study, the journal Cognitive Science reports.
"As the child develops, this knowledge is refined and eventually
leads to the abilities we use as adults," added vanMarle, who
co-authored the study, according to a Missouri statement.
"The person doesn't have to consciously think about what to do
because the brain processes the information and the person simply
reacts," said vanMarle.
In a review study from the past 30 years, vanMarle and Susan
Hespos of Northwestern University found that the evidence for
intuitive physics occurs in infants as young as two months - the
earliest age at which testing can occur.
At that age, infants show an understanding that unsupported
objects will fall and that hidden objects do not cease to exist.
Scientific testing also has shown that by five months, infants
have an expectation that non-cohesive substances like sand or
water are not solid.
In a previous publication, vanMarle found that children as young
as 10 months consistently choose larger amounts when presented
with two different amounts of food substance.
"The majority of an adult's everyday interactions with the world
are automatic, and we believe infants have the same ability to
form expectations, predicting the behavior of objects and
substances with which they interact."
While the intuitive physics knowledge is believed to be present at
birth, vanMarle believes parents can assist skill development
through normal interaction, such as playing and talking with the
child and encouraging him/her to interact with objects.