09/04/2015 11:37 BST | Updated 09/06/2015 10:12 BST

SURPRISE! How To Make Babies Learn Faster


Babies learn faster when you scare the living daylights out of them!

Well, perhaps not TOO scary, but a healthy spring of SURPRISE makes little 'uns take more notice and encourages them to find out more.

It's why peek-a-boo is so relentlessly engaging.

New research shows that babies learn more effectively when presented with strange behaviour – because it defies their expectations which then makes them more keen to explore and understand it.

Professor Lisa Feigenson, one of the study leaders, told Science: "It's easy to look at a baby and see a blank slate, but actually babies have rich sophisticated expectations about the world, maybe more than people give them credit for.

"One of the reasons we know that is that babies are surprised when impossible or surprising things happen."

Babies of around 11 months old were presented with two scenarios by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, U.S.

In one they were shown a toy car being pushed off a wooden block and falling to the ground. They were shown this again, but the car floated in mid-air.

The experiment revealed infants were more inclined to play with the car after the second, more surprising scenario.

Cognitive psychologist Aimee Stahl, one of the paper's authors, said: "The infants' behaviours are not merely reflexive responses to the novelty of surprising outcomes, but instead reflect deeper attempts to learn about aspects of the world that failed to accord with expectations.

"Infants are not only equipped with core knowledge about fundamental aspects of the world, but from early in their lives, they harness this knowledge to empower new learning."

Watch babies learning from surprises here...