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Babies as Shaped by Their Culture at Two Years of Age

First Posted: Feb 22, 2016 08:05 AM EST

It only takes two years before children are shaped by their culture. Scientists have found that by the age of two, infants are fully shaped by the world they live in.

Previous studies with adults have suggested that cultures in which we live shape how we view the objects and events in the world that surround us. In this case, though, the researchers wanted to see how early any such culturally inflected differences emerge in development.

In this latest study, the researchers had infants watch a series of repeated scenes, such as a girl petting a dog. Then, the infants watched new scenes in which either object was switched (for example, the girl was petting a pillow) or the action was switched (the girl was kissing a dog). This was when their attention diverged.

The researchers found that infants from China preferred looking at the scenes featuring a new action. In contrast, infants from the U.S. preferred scenes featuring a new object.

These findings show the earliest evidence for strong overlap in infants' attention to objects and events. The research also raises the possibility that by 24 months, infants' attention may already be shaped subtly by the attentional patterns characteristic of adults in their cultural communities.

"There is already reason to suspect that infants' attention to objects and events in dynamic scenes might already be influenced by cultural-specific patterns of attention," said Sandra Waxman, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We know, for example, that infants pay attention carefully to the actions of their parents and to others close to them."

The findings reveal a bit more about how infants first view their world. More specifically, it shows how infants are shaped early by the culture they live in.

The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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