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Gravity and Probability, and How We Know Infants Understand Them

Baby boy playing

How did we come to learn everything we now know about infants and their developing minds? I mean, infants aren’t exactly going to fill out a questionnaire or talk to you about how they’re feeling. The answer? Their eyes. Specifically, how long they look at something.

Eye-tracking research

Researchers use a method called eye-tracking to determine where babies are looking, what they’re looking at, and how long they look at it for.

We rely on the knowledge that an infant is going to look longer at something novel than something he’s used to. When something surprises him or operates in an unexpected way, an infant will stare at it longer.

This is no different to adults; we don’t give the world much of a second thought until it does something that surprises us. Imagine how much longer you would watch a plane zigzagging across the sky than a plane flying in the straight line you’ve come to expect.

Scientists use habituation, a process of getting infants used to…

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