Nine-months-old Tyler has discovered the power of the remote control. He seems to understand that there is a connection between pressing the remote control’s buttons and operating the TV. Sarah, now six months old, loves being in the bathtub. Lying on her back, supported by her mother, she studies the effect of her movements on the water. She particularly loves to kick her legs and is fascinated when she sees the water churning and splashing in all directions. Sarah and Tyler are beginning to understand the connection between cause and effect. They see that there is a connection between their actions and the world around them, and are beginning to realize that they can make interesting things happen. This connection is deeply established around the age of eighteen months, but babies have many earlier opportunities to examine it. Think, for example, of the following causal sequence: your hungry baby is crying bitterly. Suddenly, a breast or bottle arrives and provides him with the thing he most wants – milk. After many such moments – when he gives an involuntary signal and you respond – your baby will start to pay attention to the sequence of events. He will learn how to get you to do what he wants.
Understanding the connection between cause and effect gives baby a greater understanding of her world. It also increases her desire to explore, and to learn the logic that is the basis of the things she sees, hears and feels. An experiment conducted on six-month-old babies demonstrated their ability to grasp this connection: Two billiard balls were filmed for the experiment. One ball was tossed and collided with the other ball, causing the second ball to move due to the impact of the collision. This sequence of images was screened to the babies and they watched it repeatedly, until they became bored and stopped looking. Then, there was a change. The babies were shown the same two balls – only this time the first ball stopped some distance away from the second ball. Despite the fact that the first ball had never touched it, the second ball moved. The babies seemed surprised when they watched the new sequence of events, and appeared to understand that it was illogical.
As the understanding of the connection between cause and effect deepens, baby becomes a true experimenter and investigator. She begins to examine the details of events carefully and anticipates the results even before they happen. Watch a seven or eight months old baby playing with a toy. She holds the toy, moves it, pulls it, tries to squash it, and does many other things to it so she can see what happens. If she gets obvious results from a toy she will try repeatedly to manipulate it, increasing her understanding of the connection between an action and its effect. This developing ability helps baby understand laws governing the various events she observes in her environment. This important intellectual achievement helps her plan her actions, allowing her to gain more control of her behavior. Understanding the connection between cause and effect gives baby a greater understanding of her world. It also increases her desire to explore, and to learn the logic that is the basis of the things she sees, hears and feels.
Here are some things you can do to help your baby along in understanding cause and effect :
Understanding the connection between cause and effect is an important achievement, a milestone in a baby's intellectual development. Imagine how difficult it was for your child to be in a situation of uncertainty, in a world in which things happen without rhyme or reason. In the past months, you have helped introduce logic into her life. She will gradually learn to make connections between things that happen, and will also begin to anticipate future events. This will make her world more understandable, more predictable, and more enjoyable.
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