8 Things Babies Know That'll Blow Moms' Minds

Judy Dutton | Sep 17, 2014 Baby
8 Things Babies Know That'll Blow Moms' Minds
Image: Tetra Images/Corbis

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Tetra Images/Corbis

At first glance, babies might not seem that smart. Not that it's their fault! They're just young, their minds like Silly Putty -- mushy and malleable to whatever adults want to impress on them. Heck, French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau called babies "perfect idiots." Yet a growing body of science argues otherwise, claiming that babies know a whole lot more than we think they do, from physics to statistics. Read on and check out some of their unbelievably brainy abilities.

More from CafeMom: 7 Amazing Things Babies Do in the Womb

We tend to think of babies as the perfect blank slate -- supple and ready to absorb any information we expose them to. Which is why the whole debate of nature vs. nurture still rages on today. Are babies born intelligent, or is it something that can be fostered and developed? Well, there is now significant research that suggests that babies are born with some sort of innate intelligence. From numbers to language acquisition, to even their understanding of relationship dynamics -- babies surprisingly know a lot! Take a look at these new and interesting facts about babies' intelligence that might just change how the nature vs. nurture debate is argued. 

More from CafeMom: 7 Mind-Blowing Things Babies Do in the Womb

  • Newborns Know Numbers

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    A mere two days after they're born, infants can count... kind of. If shown a grid of eight dots repeatedly, babies will stare longer if the number of dots changes, which suggests they know the difference between 8 and, say, 18. By 6 months, babies can demonstrate a grasp of numbers that are a harbinger of their math abilities at the age of 3.

  • Babies Get It's Not All About Them

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    Babies have long been pegged "egocentric," which means they can't imagine anyone thinks differently than they do. But it turns out that's not entirely true. To prove it, researchers conducted an experiment where they placed broccoli and crackers in front of babies, then acted as if they loved broccoli. While 14 month olds insisted on handing the researchers crackers (because that's what they'd surely pick for a snack), 18 months olds understood the adult's point of view -- Hey, this crazy dude digs broccoli! -- and handed over the florets instead.

  • Babies Understand Physics

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    Even babies can grasp physics concepts like gravity -- which helps explain why they love dropping things on the floor, just like Sir Isaac Newton did himself (plus it's fun to watch parents stoop to pick stuff up). They also understand that solid objects are, um, solid. In one study, infants stared longer at a toy car that seemed to pass through a solid wall than at toys that obeyed the laws of physics.

  • Babies Are Pros at Statistics

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    Yes, even 8-month-olds can grasp statistics! To prove it, scientists showed babies a basket of ping pong balls where 80 percent were white and 20 percent red. Only when the researchers proceeded to take out five balls at random and they were all red, the babies appeared surprised and puzzled, indicating that deep down they knew: Hey, the odds of that happening are one in a zillion. Is this game rigged?

  • Babies Know Good from Evil

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    Babies are born with a moral compass and the ability to differentiate right from wrong. In one study at the Yale Infant Cognition Center, babies were shown animated films showing a circle ascending a hill; meanwhile triangles helped push the circle up, and squares pushed the circle down. Even babies as young as 3 months paidi more attention to the "good guy" (helper triangle) and avoided looking at the "bad guy" (hindering square).

  • Babies Learn Language Better Than Adults

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    There's a reason why babies can pick up languages with ease when they're young: Research suggests that infants as young as 3 months can automatically detect complex dependencies between syllables that adults cannot. Scientists in Germany played a stream of syllables to babies while measuring their brain responses via EEG. Whenever a syllable was put out of place, babies' brain scans lit up, indicating that they recognized something was off. Adults couldn't tell the difference.

  • Babies Know Who's Boss

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    At 10 months, babies can tell who's in charge. In one study where they watched cartoon blocks interacting, they stared longer when large objects yielded the right of way to smaller ones. In other words, they understood that big trumps small, that might makes right, and were puzzled when pipsqueaks upset this social hierarchy.

  • Repeat Nine Times and It'll Stick

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    There's no need to do your A-B-C or 1-2-3 drills ad nauseum: At the University of Hong Kong, infants were shown videos of a series of smiley and sad faces. After nine repetitions, infants paid only half as much attention to the video, suggesting they'd learned the sequence and were bored.

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