The most curious babies become the most curious toddlers: Infants' responses to surprising events are linked to later cognitive ability

An unprecedented longitudinal study on infant curiosity revealed that babies as young as six months old were most fascinated by magic tricks. This suggests that a baby's interest in unexpected aspects of the world is not changing over time. It could also predict their future cognitive abilities.Lisa Feigenson, codirector of the Johns Hopkins University Laboratory for Child Development, stated that "something about a baby’s curiosity about magic tricks can predict how curious they will become as preschoolers." The data suggests that three-year-olds may have an advantage or are better positioned to learn about the world.These findings are published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.This study was the first to examine curiosity in preverbal children. Previously, curiosity had been studied only in older adults.Feigenson's curiosity and Jasmin Perez, a Johns Hopkins graduate student, prompted this research. Jasmin is frustrated with the traditional experimental method of studying infant cognition. These experiments show babies regular objects as well as objects that behave in unexpected, unexpected ways. Some babies are more inclined to be attentive to the unanticipated events than others. One baby will look at a car floating in midair, or a ball moving through a wall. Others will look at the car and yawn.Researchers thought the variability was caused by babies being babies. Maybe they were fussy, hungry, or distracted. Feigenson, Perez believed that something more was going on.AdvertisementPerez stated that they began to wonder if all that individual variability was actually meaningful and that it tells us that babies respond to the world differently from baby to baby.They conducted an experiment with 65 babies and tracked their progress over time to find out. Some babies saw a toy that behaved normal, while others saw it seemingly go straight through a wall. Six months later, babies were shown a toy that behaved normally and others that seemed to hover in mid-air.Perez stated that babies who looked at magic objects for 11 months looked the same as those who looked at them at 17 months. "Babies are affected in different ways by magical events, and these effects appear to be stable over a six-month period in infancy."Over the six-month period, there was little to no change in the interest of the babies who were least interested.This difference between babies was it predictive of their future thinking? The team initially wanted to bring participants back to the lab when they turn three years old, but due to the pandemic they sent their parents standard curiosity questionnaires.The parents of the babies that looked the longest at events that were not expected by them were those who rated them most curious. This is the type of curiosity that will help children learn more about the world.Feigenson's lab has previously discovered that babies can benefit from these unexpected, surprising events. These new findings show that certain children are more adept at noticing these unexpected events. This suggests that some children are better equipped to learn.The team will continue to monitor the cohort in order to determine how lasting and wide-ranging the individual differences between the children.Feigenson stated that "one reason these results are so exciting is they open up the door to so many important questions." What does this mean for children in the future?" These kids are also the most curious middle school students. These kids will score the highest on school achievement or IQ tests. These results call for long-term follow-up.