New research is shedding light on the question of whether babies think before they learn a language. This ScienCentral News video has more.
What's really going on in a baby's head before he or she is able to talk?
"Parents have the propensity to interpret what kids are saying," says Susan Hespos, psychology professor at Vanderbilt University. "So a kid might make a grunting noise and a parent might elaborate that into a full sentence. That's all well and good, but in science, we need objective methods. We wanted to look at infants before they have language and see, do they have thoughts?"
One of the ways to explore this is to look at categories that are captured in a language that the infants haven't been exposed to. Hespos used a difference in how two different languages describe space: In Korean, the difference between a "tight fit" and a "loose fit" is marked in the language—a cap on a pen is a tight fit, and a pen on a table is a loose fit. In English, the distinction marked by the language has to do with "support" and "containment"—the ink is in the pen, or the pen is on the table.