Are Babies Smarter Than Adults

Article excerpt

A baby in the crib just looks like a soft, downy, innocent creature without an agenda. Actually, it has the greatest mind in the universe in the process of solving major philosophical questions with a brain that is smarter, faster, and busier than any adult's, maintain three developmental scientists whose insights from the combined fields of psychology and neurology have generated a quantum leap in understanding how a child's mind grows. Alison Gopnik, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and Andrew Meltzoff, a pioneer in infant psychology, and Patricia K. Kuhl, an authority on language development, both from the University of Washington, Seattle, are co-authors of The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains and How Children Learn, which emphasizes that what society does for preschoolers will affect not only the lives of those youngsters, but the future of the world as well.

"It is remarkable how much little children know and how much they learn in a short time," indicates Gopnik. "If you combine the psychological and neurological evidence, it is hard to avoid concluding that babies are just plain smarter than we are, at least if being smart means being able to learn something new.

Before preschoolers enter kindergarten, their brains are more active and more flexible, with more connections per brain cell, than those of adult human beings, the researchers have discovered. By age three, the child's brain is actually twice as active as an adult's. It has approximately 15,000 synapses or connections per neuron, many more than in the adult brain.

Gopnik points out that, contrary to traditional beliefs, toddlers think in a logical manner, arriving at abstract principles early and quickly. "They think, draw conclusions, make predictions, look for explanations, and even do experiments." In fact, scientists are successful precisely because they emulate what children do naturally.

"Our research shows that the attention of caring, nurturing grown-ups is extremely important for the learning of babies from birth. But we are doing nothing as a society to ensure that children get that kind of attention," Gopnik states. Nevertheless, she and her colleagues do not recommend new educational schemes for preschoolers, such as flash cards and Mozart tapes, noting that there is no evidence any environment can be artificially created to make people brighter or better. …