Babies Learn Better When Surprised

New research out of Johns Hopkins University suggests babies whose expectations are challenged by surprise tend to learn more efficiently.

New research out of Johns Hopkins University suggests that babies learn more effectively when taken aback or surprised. Brian Handwerk of Smithsonian Mag explains:


"Fans of 'Got Your Nose' take note: Unexpected experiences that violate infants' innate knowledge of the world, like a ball appearing to roll through a solid wall, stimulate interest and help them figure out where to focus their learning efforts. The discovery not only shows that very young babies already have sophisticated expectations, but that the ones who experience surprises learn more efficiently than those who don't."

Cognitive psychologists Aimee E. Stahl and Lisa Feigenson co-authored the new study published in Science. They found that babies are motivated to learn more about their surroundings and do so best when confronted with surprising events. If a new item is introduced into their immediate environment in a startling way, a baby is much more likely to pursue further understanding of the object than if the object hadn't surprised them.

Read more at Smithsonian Mag.

Below, psychologist and Big Think expert Alison Gopnik explains her own childhood and how to analyze the psyche of an infant:

Photo credit: FamVeld / Shutterstock

Compelling speakers do these 4 things every single time

The ability to speak clearly, succinctly, and powerfully is easier than you think

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rally at the Anaheim Convention Center on September 8, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Barbara Davidson/Getty Images)
Personal Growth

The ability to communicate effectively can make or break a person's assessment of your intelligence, competence, and authenticity.

Keep reading Show less

This 5-minute neck scan can spot dementia 10 years before it emerges

The results come from a 15-year study that used ultrasound scans to track blood vessels in middle-aged adults starting in 2002.

Mikhail Kalinin via Wikipedia
Mind & Brain
  • The study measured the stiffness of blood vessels in middle-aged patients over time.
  • Stiff blood vessels can lead to the destruction of delicate blood vessels in the brain, which can contribute to cognitive decline.
  • The scans could someday become a widely used tool to identify people at high risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's.
Keep reading Show less

How 'dark horses' flip the script of success and happiness

What defines a dark horse? The all-important decision to pursue fulfillment and excellence.

Big Think Books

When we first set the Dark Horse Project in motion, fulfillment was the last thing on our minds. We were hoping to uncover specific and possibly idiosyncratic study methods, learning techniques, and rehearsal regimes that dark horses used to attain excellence. Our training made us resistant to ambiguous variables that were difficult to quantify, and personal fulfillment seemed downright foggy. But our training also taught us never to ignore the evidence, no matter how much it violated our expectations.

Keep reading Show less