Boston.com has a feature about baby minds and development. It’s really unfortunate that we continue to try and refute or confirm this whole mind/consciousness (duality) thing is a concept we made up. I’m not doubting that we are consciousness and that is something worthy to understand. No, it’s the idea that we’re still trying to justify some 300 year old conception of mind. I’m frustrated that we are “surprised” by finding out the baby brain has more neurons or higher “brain activity” and that the adult brain is more concentrated.. blah blah blah. Here’s a particularly frustrating passage:
One of the most surprising implications of this new research concerns baby consciousness, or what babies actually experience as they interact with the outside world. While scientists and doctors have traditionally assumed that babies are much less conscious than adults – this is why, until the 1970s, many infants underwent surgery without anesthesia – that view is being overturned. Gopnik argues that, in many respects, babies are more conscious than adults. She compares the experience of being a baby with that of watching a riveting movie, or being a tourist in a foreign city, where even the most mundane activities seem new and exciting. “For a baby, every day is like going to Paris for the first time,” Gopnik says. “Just go for a walk with a 2-year-old. You’ll quickly realize that they’re seeing things you don’t even notice.”
There’s something slightly paradoxical about trying to study the inner life of babies. For starters, you can’t ask them questions. Young children can’t describe their sensations or justify their emotions; they can’t articulate the pleasure of a pacifier or explain the comfort of a stuffed animal. And, of course, none of us have any memories of infancy. For a scientist, the baby mind can seem like an impenetrable black box.
In recent years, however, scientists have developed new methods for entering the head of a baby. They’ve looked at the density of brain tissue, analyzed the development of neural connections, and tracked the eye movements of infants. By comparing the anatomy of the baby brain with the adult brain, scientists can make inferences about infant experience.
a) Yes babies have less history, less shaping by the environment (in their brains, muscles, cells, etc. etc.). Yes, this means they will be more sensitive to things adults have long habituated to or learned to ignore
b) even if babies could tell us their “emotions” it wouldn’t help because they’d have no context for those emotions or sensations. Those kinds of concepts only come from experience. AND… having adults describe their “inner life” isn’t exactly precise…
c) The Infant Experience… oh boy. I sense a reality show on TLC coming on…
Read the whole article. It’s really a self help article for being creative. Here’s the punchline: Think Like a Baby.
My wife thinks I do that enough. At least now I can scientifically justify my behavior.