New Study Suggests Babies Could Learn Persistence From Adults

Adults who tend to give up easily when doing certain tasks might want to keep trying instead if they happen to have young infants. New research has revealed that babies of a certain age can learn persistence if they see grown-ups having a difficult time completing a task before they succeed.

According to a report from STLToday, the new study published earlier this week in the journal Science suggests that parents of babies aged around 15-months-old can set a good example by working hard, as that hard work might influence the infants to do the same. As shown in the study, the babies did more than just follow the adult participants’ example of persistence, but also seemed to learn that it’s an important life lesson to finish what you started.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who conducted a total of three experiments with 262 babies aged 13 months to 18 months, and averaging 15-months-old. As further explained by STLToday, the experiments saw two groups of infants watching an adult researcher solve a few problems — unhooking a keychain from a carabiner, and removing a rubber frog from a plastic container. A third experiment involved a felt-covered music box activated by a large red button, with the babies’ persistence gauged by how long they would keep hitting the button.

For the first group, the researcher pretended to have a hard time solving the problems, taking about 30 seconds to remove the frog or unhook the keychain. The researcher in the second group was able to solve the problems effortlessly, completing them within 10 seconds. That led to the third experiment, where the babies were encouraged to turn the music box on.

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Based on the study’s findings, babies were more persistent if they saw the researcher struggling at the task, as compared to watching the researcher solve the problem without breaking a sweat. One of the experiments saw the babies push the button 23 times on average after watching the researcher struggle, but only 12 times if the researcher easily figured things out.

In another interesting note, babies tended to show more persistence if the researcher had made eye contact, called the child by name, or spoke in the high-pitched, singsong voice that adults usually use when trying to communicate with young children and grab their attention.

“There wasn’t any difference in how long they played with the toy or in how many times they tossed it to their parent,” explained study first author Julia Leonard, as quoted by Discover Magazine.

“The real difference was in the number of times they pressed the button before they asked for help and in total.”

The main take-home thought of the research is that babies can learn persistence, or grit, by watching adults show some grit in what they do. And while the study was limited in the sense that it did not show how long the effect could last, and did not categorically say that parents can get similar results with their young children, Leonard added that “it can’t hurt to try (showing persistence) in front of your child.”

[Featured Image by Oksana Kuzmina/Shutterstock]