Science: Baby's Eyes Watch Us

Society | November 8, 2002, Friday // 00:00

Adults often believe infants are off in their own world, but a new study indicates they are more tuned into the wider world and what the people around them are doing than previously thought. The research by University of Washington psychologists Rechele Brooks and Andrew Meltzoff reveals the importance of eyes to 12-, 14- and 18-month-old infants and shows that they are much more likely to look at an object when a person turns toward it with open eyes rather than closed. Not only that, but the study also shows that infants gazed at the object longer when the person looked at it with open eyes, and the infants initiated more vocalizing and pointing toward the object.

In addition, the study indicates that by the age of 14 months infants become sensitive to things that may obstruct another person's view. The infants were more likely to look at an object when a person was wearing a headband rather than a blindfold that blocked the person's view. "Our work shows children are clued into the social world and are taking into account what other people are perceiving," Brooks said. "They are not off on their own, but are solving puzzles with the help of others. They are noting subtle differences and modifying their behaviour."

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