Forget ABC; Newborn Babies Can Understand 123 Already!

Khryss | Published 2017-09-08 12:41

Man, humans are intelligent!

Yes, you read that right, newborn babies may already have a sense of  how numbers work! How? Well, here's a new study for a better understanding.

Newborn babies seem to have a rudimentary sense of numbers, preferring smaller numbers on the left and larger ones on the right. The finding suggests that this left-to-right mental number line might be innate for humans.

 “Anything you want to remember that has a sense of order – be it days of the week or musical tones – you tend to map that to a spatial continuum,” says Koleen McCrink at Barnard College, New York. And that is also true for numbers on which people tend to having an increasing mental number line from left to right.

Rosa Rugani at the University of Padua, Italy, and colleagues wanted to know if this line is innate or is due to language and culture. They showed babies between 12 and 117 hours old a series of images that could indicate mental number lines (white blank square with smaller black squares inside).

Researchers utilized an eye-tracker device to monitor where the babies were looking at. Results showed that they actually tend to look towards left more when shown with smaller number of black squares and right when shown with larger number of those.

“Seeing this [left-to-right mental number line] in newborns is a powerful suggestion that it is innate,” says McCrink. “Maybe that’s why we pay more attention to the left side first,” she says.

“It’s pretty impressive to have data from a newborn, where there is very little possibility for cultural influence,” says Martin Fischer at Potsdam University in Germany. But this still doesn't discredit the possible effect culture already had in these babies. “Just spending five minutes with an adult could influence children,” says Fischer.

Moreover, this also has a possible implications on our cognition and math skills that still needs to be figured out. For now, is it safe to say that we are innately, uhm, smart?

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