What do infants understand about the
social world? More than you think.
BY KIRSTEN WEIR
Newborns have quite a reputation to uphold: They’re notorious eating, sleeping, diaper- dirtying machines. Often dismissed as “blank slates,” they have much to learn.
Yet they also have plenty to teach us. As scientists explore what’s going on in those adorably
tiny heads, they’re finding that babies have a surprisingly rich understanding of the social worlds
“People used to think that infants’ cognitive abilities were severely limited,” says Jessica
Sommerville, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Washington. “But more recent tools and
research have really painted an entirely different picture.”