Baby's Brain in Week 85
Trips past that mirror in your hallway used to be pretty ho-hum for your child—except for one thing: He always saw that boy looking back at him when he looked in the glass.
But around now you may notice him taking a special interest in the mirror or other reflective surfaces. Around 18 months, your toddler recognizes that the face looking back at him is his own!
What the Research Shows
In a classic (and clever!) study, researchers put a dab of rouge on the noses of 14-month-old children and put them in front of a mirror. Then they waited to see what the children would do. (If you looked in the mirror and noticed a red spot on your nose, you'd quickly wipe it away.) But these 14-month-olds didn't acknowledge the rouge: Clearly, they didn't believe the person they were seeing in the mirror had anything to do with them.
The researchers performed the same experiment with 18-month-old children. After looking in the mirror, most of the toddlers indicated that the rouge on their noses didn't belong there. Some looked embarrassed ("Have I really been walking around with this in full view?"), while others touched the spot and looked perplexed, as if to say, "I know what I look like, and I know I don't have a red nose."
Week 85 Brain Booster
Prior to this moment of self-recognition, children do have an idea of their own existences: They feel their senses at work. They know they are like you, so they copy your movements and behaviors. They feel their bodies move in space. But recognizing their actual appearance has escaped them—until now.
The moment of "it's me in that mirror" comes at about the same time that toddlers realize the two of you may have different desires. Remember the fish cracker and broccoli research from two weeks ago, relating to conflict of desire? The combination of your child's recognition of his appearance and awareness of his own desires leads him to realize that he is a person separate from you. He understands that he's operating under his own will and is out to prove it to himself and everyone else.
Of course, what often follows is some trying and perplexing toddler behavior. Your child may head for a lamp's cord while looking straight at you, as if to say, "What are you going to do about it?" As exasperating as it is, such behavior is a result of this newfound discovery of self—and a good precursor for learning more about adult standards, later this year.
Curious about how else your toddler might be developing right now? Learn more about her clever brain and her growing body here: