Babies understand more than we realise

A new study suggests babies understand the meaning of words much earlier than first thought

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Babies as young as 6 months can understand the words for many common objects, which is months before they can say them, according to a new study.

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The finding confounds traditional scientific thinking that babies start to grasp the meaning of words around 1 year of age.

“I think this study presents a great message to parents: you can talk to your babies and they’re going to understand a bit of what you’re saying,” said psychologist Daniel Swingley, from the University of Pennsylvania, who carried out the research.

“They’re not going to give us back witty repartee, but they understand some of it. And the more they know, the more they can build on what they know.”

The researchers found that when a caregiver repeated a statement such as “where’s the apple”, the baby’s eyes would move to the relevant object on a computer screen.

In the study of 33 babies, aged 6 months to 9 months, researchers found the babies would move their eyes to the correct object even when a clutter of different things were shown on screen. This indicates that they understood that the word was associated with the appropriate object, say researchers.

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