Study: Infants recognize counting as numerically relevant

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We play a game: One of us parents will count to five and say that number of fingers are coming after you and tickle Fleur. (My wife does to five and tickles with both hands. I will to five & use one hand or ten &use both.) In true dopamine fashion the smile is largest in the middle (three and eight). It did make me wonder if she recognized the words, but that apparently comes around 3-4 however there is evidence that starting around 14 months they have an approximate numerical system that allows them to recognize it.

Children do not understand the meanings of count words like “two” and “three” until the preschool years. But even before knowing the meanings of these individual words, might they still recognize that counting is “about” the dimension of number? Here in five experiments, we asked whether infants already associate counting with quantities. We measured 14‐ and 18‐month olds’ ability to remember different numbers of hidden objects that either were or were not counted by an experimenter before hiding. As in previous research, we found that infants failed to differentiate four hidden objects from two when the objects were not counted—suggesting an upper limit on the number of individual objects they could represent in working memory. However, infants succeeded when the objects were simply counted aloud before hiding. We found that counting also helped infants differentiate four hidden objects from six (a 2:3 ratio), but not three hidden objects from four (a 3:4 ratio), suggesting that counting helped infants represent the arrays’ approximate cardinalities. Hence counting directs infants’ attention to numerical aspects of the world, showing that they recognize counting as numerically relevant years before acquiring the meanings of number words.

Experiment one: The infants watched a demonstration of putting items in a box some while counted and others using “this” instead of counting. Then the researcher had the child do the task on sometimes two or four objects (two in front and two in back). They measured the search time and found the children searched longer for the two when counted. The supposition here is the counting primed working memory for four items. Or setting a summary representation array using an approximate number system (ANS).

Experiment two: In this one, the researchers teased out the efficacy of the ANS . The two tasks were both counted prior to hiding. This time the search time was measured after the first two were found. In the other, the search time was measure after the third was retrieved. If ANS were used, then they should not distinguish between 3 and 4, which was the result.

Experiment three: The number of objects was increased to 4 and 6 as it should exceed the capability of working memory. It confirmed ANS is likely the component in play.

Experiment four: Same procedures as three but measured like two.

I would love to see this have with more kids and replicated.

Wang, Jinjing & Feigenson, Lisa. (2019). Infants recognize counting as numerically relevant. Developmental Science. 10.1111/desc.12805.

Daredevil

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This kid has a serious dopamine addiction. Fleur climbed before she walked. She always wants to get as high as possible on her own, but she will also resort to help. (I am her personal cherry picker.) Putting things out of her reach just changes the goal setting.

From a couple months ago in “the dolphin squeal“:

I am finding the kiddo is a daredevil. Things I kind of expected to be shocking and make her scared don’t. She instead lets out a squeal and wants more. Greaaaaaaaaaaat. Dopamine addict.

I blame myself. I encouraged her to love the ceiling fans when she was immobile. There was a song I’d sing which would get her to look at them. When she started to develop the grasping skill, I encouraged her to pull the fans’ chain by holding her up near it. Now that she is both walking and climbing, she has a lot of fascination getting into things by climbing up on them.

I also encouraged her to safely slide off the bed, recliner, and couch back when she was crawling. I feared her falling off them, so I wanted her to do them in a safe way. From there, it was an easy reverse to climb up them.

She can get on the ottoman from which to jump onto the couch. She loves the rush of jumping across the gap. And can clear a couple feet now, but as the distance grows she pauses a bit longer. And falling has ZERO impact on this behavior. It may have something to do with the MORE intense laughter at a near miss. Hard thunks get a good cry, but as soon as she is comforted, she wants back at it with more determination. Warnings get a dubious or defiant look.

This girl will climb up on the couches, end tables, and coffee table. She really wants to climb the baby gates and entertainment center and crib walls. It is only a matter of time before she starts moving things to help boost her. We already are in the realm of needing to have eyes on her at all times.

The dolphin squeal

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The toddler enjoys playing with others. When she is excited, she lets out the cutest little high pitched stuttering squeal. It reminds me of the dolphin from Flipper. (I wrote in the bio that I am old.)

I first heard it in her excitement at learning the cat was near. For a while it was the cat’s warning sign the new walker was on her way.

It comes out while horseplaying. The best, is chasing her around the house saying, “I am going to tickle you!” She does her dolphin squeal and runs away. I had a proud dad moment when she paused to try and close a door behind her to impede my chase. Great tactic.

Over the weekend, we attended a baby shower. The hosts have a friendly dog who stands just under eye-level for the toddler. The dog licked Fleur’s face because, naturally, there was food still on it. That. THAT. Got the longest squeal I have heard yet. And a quarter hour of following the dog around trying to get in her face and receive another face lick.

I am finding the kiddo is a daredevil. Things I kind of expected to be shocking and make her scared don’t. She instead lets out a squeal and wants more. Greaaaaaaaaaaat. Dopamine addict.

 

Causation

fb_img_1552696891627Fleur has gleeful look when adults make weird sounds before doing something funny. Nose boops, tickles, and the like. She loves the stuff from people she likes. And doing it well, is a good way into her favorite people list.

Dopamine is thought of as the reward neurotransmitter. But, it is more complicated. It is what we get anticipating a reward. Say, you are playing a video game, dopamine surges to ensure you focus and persevere to achieve the level or match.

The noise right before tells her it is coming. Classical conditioning pairs a neutral stimulus with a desired one. The prior one is neutral the first time, but after she has paired it with the desired stimulus and anticipates the desired one. It seems like she enjoys the anticipation almost as much.

In getting mobile and manipulating objects, she is learning to use operant conditioning as well. She exerts her will on the world around her. This takes the form of doing the same thing over and over both using the same technique to confirm it works and adjusting to see what might work better. The other day she was trying to get into my tablet and tapping different spots to see how it reacted. You could see the Scientific Method in action: hypothesis, design test, execute test, evaluate result, new hypothesis.

Something I never thought about in university psychology classes was the impressive nature of linking things into causal chains. If this, then that. Over and over. Both forms of conditioning require understanding causation. The sponge that is Fleur’s brain seems to seek out understanding causation. And happiness to me is creating an environment for her try things and figure out how they work.