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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thursday's Psychology Trivia: How Much Does Your Newborn Know On Day One?


Thought for the Day: This week I have been focusing on early childhood. Yesterday, I noted the importance of an infant's learning to smile in the development of self esteem and the ability to love. On Tuesday, I explained why sometimes childhood depression goes undiagnosed. How the game of Hide and Seek could help a child develop more positive relationships with their parents in therapy was the topic on Monday. Today's trivia question looks at how much newborns know before they are born. Here's the trivia question:
      Which of these facts are true:
a) Day old infants already recognize their mother's voice
b) Newborn babies prefer the sound of their mother's native language
c) By week 14,  there is some evidence that fetuses can taste bitter, sweet, or sour flavors in the amniotic fluid
d) The more varied a mother's diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding, the more likely that the infant will accept a new food
e) In the first few hours after birth, a baby's sense of smell may be more important in helping him identify his mother than vision
f) Babies in utero experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is associated with dreaming, at around 32 to 36 weeks
g) None of the above
h) a), b), c), d), e), and f)
Read on to see the answer...
 The answer is h). Current research indicates that infants know a lot more than we used to believe. In a fascinating article in Parenting Magazine, "What Babies Learn In the Womb," Laura Flynn Mccarthy reports on these and other fascinating findings. Many of the studies were done by connecting a pacifier to tape recorded sounds including the day old infant's mother's voice.
"Within 10 to 20 minutes, the babies learned to adjust their sucking rate on the pacifier to turn on their own mother's voice," says the study's coauthor William Fifer, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. "This not only points out a newborn's innate love for his mother's voice but also a baby's unique ability to learn quickly."
Using the same technique they found that they preferred to hear voices speaking in their mother's native language. Other studies showed evidence of the learning that appears to be happening in utero. As a psychologist, I have always felt that newborns are more responsive to their environment from the get go, but it may be that some infants have been more inquisitive or more stimulated by their mother's activities while growing during the nine months of pregnancy.

I remember going to see the musical Stomp with my daughter when she was pregnant with her first child. He was moving around and reacting to the sounds of the entire play. eighteen years later, he is not only a musician, but a bright young man on his way to an Ivy League college. Surely Stomp is not the only reason, but pregnant women should not be afraid to go out and share the sounds of the world with their unborn infant. To learn more take a look at the article in Parenting Magazine.
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