"Infants who saw a researcher keep at a difficult task tried harder themselves
Opening a jar of pickles should not be that difficult. And while you are busy mumbling, grimacing, hopping on one foot and holding the jar against your hip until the lid pops open, a young brain may be analyzing the spectacle and learning from it.
Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found infants who watched an adult struggle and then succeed at something were more likely to show perseverance themselves when faced with a completely different task.
Previous research has shown babies can imitate actions and learn concepts from a few examples. The new study, published Thursday in Science, found babies can also infer values—such as when it is worth it to keep trying—from adults’ behaviors. “The kinds of inferential mechanisms that babies use to learn concepts or things about the world, they can also use and learn to change how they act in the world,” says Laura Schulz, a cognitive scientist at MIT and senior author of the study. “We don’t realize how much babies are watching us and drawing inferences from our behavior.”
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