A group of expectant mothers were given one of three stories to read to their newborn twice a day for the final six weeks of their pregnancy. The stories included The King, The Mice, and the Cheese, the first half of The Cat in the Hat and the last half of The Cat in the Hat, with some words changed and called instead The Dog in the Fog. After birth, babies listened to recordings of the story they had been read while sucking on a pacifier. The babies who had listened to the story in the womb reacted to the story by sucking more frequently on the pacifier, but babies who hadn’t heard the story in utero did not react to the story at all. This suggests that the babies who had heard the story before remembered it. Read more here.
In the Still Face Experiment, mums play with their babies and give them lots of attention, such as looking where their baby is pointing and responding to their coos and smiles. Then the mother is told not to respond to the baby at all but just keep a straight face. The baby does everything it can to try and regain its mum’s attention including crying and pointing and screeching. Remember this the next time you try and catch up on your favourite TV show while your baby is seemingly unware – they will probably know they don’t have your full attention and won’t be happy about it! See this experiment in action here.
In a study by Paul Bloom, he discovered that babies seem to have an understanding of right and wrong. The babies watched an adult use a puppet to push a ball. Another puppet either hindered the first puppet, or leant a hand. When the babies were allowed to play with the puppets, most spent more time playing with the nice puppet and some even pushed the horrible puppet away.
It seems that babies quickly learn who are honest and who are not. In another study an adult looked into a box and exclaimed: “Wow! What’s in here?” The baby was given the box to open. Some boxes contained a toy, others were empty. In the next part of the study, the same adult turned a flashlight on with their forehead and encouraged the babies to do the same. The babies who had been given a box with a toy inside mostly copied the adult by turning the flashlight on with their forehead. The babies who had received an empty box appeared to no longer trust the adult and turned the flashlight on by hand.
Psychologist Michael Tomasello believes that babies have an innate desire to be helpful. For example, he found that babies will help someone open a door, or pick up something they have dropped. Shame this doesn’t always last into the teenage years!