Babies can learn that hard work and perseverance pay off by watching adults
An MIT study finds that even toddlers can learn the value of hard work and perseverance.
If you ever needed more proof how important good parenting is for the future of humanity, MIT researchers showed in a new study that even small babies can learn that hard work pays off. How would they learn? By watching the adults around them persevere and succeed in difficult tasks.
The study concluded that babies of no more than 15 months can learn the value of trying hard after observing examples of adults struggling to complete tasks. This realization should take some pressure off the parents, said Laura Schulz, a professor of cognitive science at MIT and senior author of the study.
“There’s some pressure on parents to make everything look easy and not get frustrated in front of their children,” said Schulz. “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.”
Schulz and Julia Leonard, the paper’s first author, wanted to see how children decide, even at an early age, when to try hard and when not to bother. They run their experiments on two different occasions, with the reproduced study achieving the same results.
The experiments involved 103 and 120 babies, respectively, between 13 and 18 months of age watching an adult performing two tasks - removing a toy frog from a container and a key chain from a carabiner. Half of the babies were shown an adult succeed in the tasks three times in 30 seconds, while the other half observed the adult struggling for 30 seconds until finally achieving her goals.
The researchers then showed each baby a musical toy that had an “on” button that did not actually control the toy. The scientists turned the toys on and off using a hidden button to show the babies that they can be activated. After that they turned the toys off and gave to the babies to see what they would do.
In two minutes of play with the toy, researchers found that the babies who earlier saw an adult struggle pressed the fake “on” button twice as many times than those who saw the adult be successful right away. They also pressed it twice as many times before asking for help or just giving up.
“There wasn’t any difference in how long they played with the toy or in how many times they tossed it to their parent,” explained Leonard. “The real difference was in the number of times they pressed the button before they asked for help and in total.”
Kiley Hamlin, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, who was not involved in the study, said it was a “lovely demonstration” that persistence can be taught even to infants. She saw two ways in which we should regard the findings of the study, stressing that it doesn't take much to be a compelling role model.:
“First, infants seem to be learning something about persistence in general, rather than on how to best solve task A or task B specifically,” said Hamlin. “Second, influencing our infants' persistence, at least in the short term, might (ironically) take relatively little effort on our part.”
The scientists are looking next to understand how long influencing an infant’s behavior would last with different kinds of tasks.
You can read the study here, in Science.
These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.
We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.
Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.
For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.