NPR’s science program, called Radiolab, recently turned its attention to infants. Why? Well because one of the show’s hosts became a dad for the first time. And it made him wonder about how baby brains work. He was interested in understanding how his baby perceives the world, and out of his curiosity, the podcast After Birth was born.
How your baby perceives the world
In his podcast, Jad Abumrad (the dad in question), interviewed Charles Fernyhough, author of the book A Thousand Days of Wonder. The author and psychologist had actually taken a closer look at the workings of an infant’s brain. And what he had discovered, was remarkable.
From his findings, babies see the world as a much brighter place than the world we – grownups – have come to know. He also says that babies probably hear echoes of everything they hear because their brains cannot yet process sound properly.
Baby perceives the world in blurts of hearing colours and seeing sounds
One of the most entertaining aspects of the podcast, however, was when Fernyhough talked about the results they had found after EEG brains scans. The scans suggest that the brains of babies are so new that they’re prone to ‘misfiring.’ Optical areas will often light up when babies hear something. And when they see something, their auditory areas become stimulated. That’s why so many people have speculated that babies can see colours and hear something they’re witnessing with their eyes.
Another take on how your baby perceives the world
On a completely different note, there’s Alison Gopnik’s book – The Philosophical Baby. The book zooms into how babies perceive the world much differently than we do. She states that babies might have the ability to focus just as well as adults can. Which makes them experience life much more richly and deeply than adults ever can.
Recently, at the University of British Columbia, Vashti Garcia and Fei Xu proved that babies understand the idea of probabilities. According to a study they did, 8-month old babies saw a box full of ping-pong balls. Most of the balls were white. But there were a few that were red. And when they saw more red balls than white balls coming out of the box, they were surprised with the possible (yet improbable) outcome.
According to Gopnik’s book, we should encourage our babies to play with natural elements more. Rather than focusing on giving them ‘educational’ toys. The kind of intelligence that’s picked up in the brains of babies varies deeply from that which is measured in schools. Academic intelligence revolves around focus and planning. But when it comes to babies, there’s no time or place for planning, aiming, or precise goals.