Your Brilliant Baby in Week 50: Social Referencing
What your infant learns this week
Baby’s Brain in Week 50
As your baby nears her first birthday, watch for this interesting phenomenon: Set out an unusual object—maybe a wind-up bunny, an electronic chirping chick, or just a new piece of kitchen equipment. Because children are innately curious, your child will likely approach the object. As she does, she’ll look at you as if asking, “Is touching this object a good idea or bad idea?”
While your child is curious about the object, she’s also determined to be safe as she investigates it. (Remember, as early as their first week, babies instinctively act in ways that assure they’ll survive. And by week 36, your child was mimicking your actions, assuming you knew best.)
Now, at this age, when your child references your face, she’s reading whether you think her actions are dangerous or safe. If you smile and nod, she’ll proceed. If you look horrified, she’ll stop in her tracks. She’ll do so with respect of new, strange, wonderful, and dangerous objects—and new people she encounters, as well.
What the Research Shows
Researchers had a grown-up look into two boxes while a one-year-old watched. When peering in one of the boxes, the adult smiled with joy; when looking in the other, the adult looked disgusted. In each trial, the adult then offered the children the opportunity to investigate the boxes for themselves.
Did the children look in both boxes? Nope. They only looked in the box that had prompted a smile from the experimenter’s face. These one-year-olds had read the experimenter’s emotional response, taken it to heart, trusted her judgment, and kept away from what the adult had communicated to be displeasing. Talk about impressionable!
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