For adults, learning a second language can be incredibly difficult, but it’s much easier for toddlers and young children. Why is that?
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Researchers are trying to figure out the wonders of a baby’s brain and what it can teach us about human cognition.
One of the leading researchers in the field is internationally renowned infant and child development expert Dr. Andrew Meltzoff. His 20 years of research, particularly about the importance of role models in a child’s development, has had far-reaching implications for cognitive science. He has found that a baby learns quickly because they watch, they imitate and they extrapolate.
“Babies, in the newborn hospital, were able to imitate,” explains Dr. Meltzoff. “If I poked out my tongue, they would do a tongue protrusion back. If I opened and closed my mouth, they would open and close their mouth and this convinced me that human beings are born learning and born social.”
Dr. Andrew Meltzoff: Born LearningAmerican psychologist Dr. Andrew Meltzoff explains how a baby's brain learns
Dr. Meltzoff says a baby’s ability to understand the similarity between their own bodies and other people’s bodies could be the root of human empathy.
“They have a hand, you have a hand and they recognize the similarity and that’s the initial bridge between self and other that gives rise, when they’re older, to a feeling of empathy for others and caring for others,” says Dr. Meltoff.
American psychologist Dr. Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, recently sat down with Mike Walter at the annual Aspen Ideas Festival and discussed his research.