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Study Shows Six-Month Old Babies Have a Sense of Probability

JK NNI NEWS

RAFIA BASHIR

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Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have now shown that even six-month-old babies have a sense of probability. One of the most important features of the human mind is its ability to make generalizations based on sparse data. Our brain accomplishes this task by using probability information to represent statistical regularities in our environment and guiding our actions. As adults, we have a vague understanding of which events are likely to happen. But so far, it has not been clear when in our lifespan we begin to estimate which events are more likely to occur than others.

Our whole life we have to make decisions and weigh up probabilities of different events. By learning to estimate which event is more likely to happen, we become better at analysing risks and benefits to guide our actions. But when do we start to gain a sense of stochasticity? Are babies even able to determine likelihood?

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig and the University of Uppsala, Sweden, have now discovered that even six-month-old babies can estimate probabilities. The babies already succeed in determining which colour makes up the majority of the balls and therefore which one is more likely to be drawn. “Six months seems to be the minimum age at which infants start to deal with probability information. One previous study showed that babies at just four months old were not able to perform this task and therefore seemed to not yet be sensitive to this information,” says Ezgi Kayhan, neuroscientist at MPI CBS and leader of the underlying study. “We suppose that from early on in life, our brains represent statistics of the environment. Within the first six months of life, babies are able to extract information about which events follow on from each other, or how likely one event is compared to another.”

 

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