Fei Xu, an associate professor of psychology at UBC, said infants have the ability to recognize inconsistencies when shown two different patterns of colours.
The babies in the study even acted surprised when they were shown one pattern of colour and then were immediately shown a different pattern, she said.
During the 15-day study last year, a group of eight-month-old infants were put through six separate experiments.
All six experiments were done in slightly different ways to see if there was consistency in the reactions of the youngsters.
First, the infants were given a few red and white ping pong balls to play with. A few minutes later, the researchers showed the infants a box of ping pong balls filled with red balls and one white ball. Finally, the researchers pulled four white balls and one red ball from a box and timed that response.
Each time, researchers carefully timed how long the babies looked at each ball.
“What we found is, if you pulled four white balls and one red one they looked longer, meaning they noticed the inconsistency,” Xu said. “So we think they’re sensitive to something like probability information in predicting the colours that should be coming out of the box. “
The experiment, part of a series of studies on infants being conducted by UBC’s department of psychology, will be published by the US-based Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.