Hardworking Babies: Infants Can Learn Persistence From Adults


Parents' relationships with infants are significant factors in the early child development. A new research shows that as early as 15-months, infants can learn persistence from the adults around them.

Hardworking Babies

Babies are incredible bundles of joy, but are they more intelligent than we think? For many years, IQ has been the primary basis for a child's intelligence and possible future success. As such, so much focus is given on IQ. However, researchers are looking into another possible predictor of success: persistence.

A new research shows that babies can evidently catch the value of persistence and hard work after just seeing a couple of examples of a persistent adult. As it turns out, babies learn more from adults who exhibit the value of hard work, rather than from adults who exhibit effortless success.

Baby See, Baby Do

To study infant persistence, researchers from MIT conducted experiments which entailed 15-month-old infants to watch adults perform the tasks before allowing them to do the same tasks on their own. The two tasks were as follows: remove a toy frog from a container, and remove a keychain from a carabiner.

Half of the infants watched an adult effortlessly complete the tasks three times within 30 seconds, while the other half watched an adult struggle for 30 seconds before successfully completing the tasks.

The experimenter then presented the infants with a musical toy that had a button, which looked like it should turn the toy on. However, pressing the button did not actually make the toy work. In fact, it only worked via a concealed functioning button at the bottom. Out of sight of the infant, the experimenter would turn the toy on to let them know that it  plays music, and turned it off again before giving it to the infant. Each child was given two minutes to play with the toy.

Researchers found that the infants who watched the adult struggle for a little while before succeeding pressed the button on the toy nearly twice as much overall compared to the infants who saw the adults succeed with ease. Similarly, the infants who watched the adult struggle also pressed the button twice as many times before asking for help or tossing the toy to their parent.

What's more, the infants evidently seemed to try harder when the experimenter directly interacts with them by saying their names, making eye contact, and talking directly to them.

Learning At An Early Age

Although the long-term effects of the experiments are unknown, the results show that humans can evidently learn at a very early age, and this includes values such as hard work and persistence.

"There's some pressure on parents to make everything look easy and not get frustrated in front of their children," said Laura E. Schulz, professor at MIT and coauthor of the study. "There's nothing you can learn from a laboratory study that directly applies to parenting, but this does at least suggest that it may not be a bad thing to show your children that you are working hard to achieve your goals."

In a society where parents want their children to excel, perhaps it's important to show children that hard work is just as important, if not more important, than childhood IQ in aiming for success.

The study is published in the journal Science.

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