Babies Curious About ‘Magic’ Become Curious Toddlers

July 07, 2021

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers have found that infants who express curiosity about surprising events such as magic tricks become the most curious toddlers.

Science Daily reports that the study suggests a pre-verbal baby’s level of interest in surprising aspects of the world remains constant over time and could be a measure of their future cognitive ability.

Lisa Feigenson, co-director of the Johns Hopkins University Laboratory for Child Development, said: “Something about a baby’s curiosity about magic tricks is predicting how curious they become as preschoolers

“What the data suggest is that some three-year-olds have a leg up or seem particularly well-positioned to learn a lot about the world.”

Little was known about the curiosity of the pre-verbal mind, until this study. Feigenson and lead author of the paper, Jasmin Perez had been frustrated with ‘classic’ experimental methods for studying infant cognition, where babies are shown everyday objects behaving in surprising and unexpected ways.

Some babies would stare at these objects while others would take a quick look, yawn, and be done with it. Researchers assumed that the differences were simply babies being babies, or maybe they were hungry, tired, or just being fussy.

However, Feigenson and Perez suspected there was more to it, and studied 65 babies over a period of time, and their reactions to strangely behaving objects at 11 months old and again at 17 months old.

“We found babies who looked really long at magical objects at 11 months were the same babies that looked really long at magical objects at 17 months,” Perez says.

“Babies are affected by these magical events in different ways, and these ways appear to be stable across a six-month period during infancy.”

The researchers are continuing their studies, with the babies now at three years old, to see how their curiosity evolves as they grow up.

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