Creativity is present from the cradle

Creativity is present from the cradle
Creativity is present from the cradle

“Human creativity has no boundaries: it has taken us to the moon and allowed us to cure deadly diseases. But despite its importance, we do not yet know when and how this impressive ability to combine ideas and invent new things emerges,” said Barbara Pomiechowska, a researcher at the Central European University (Austria). To gain more knowledge on the subject, she decided to collaborate with scientists from the University of Birmingham (UK).

Two new words describing quantity were taught to 12-month-old babies

In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesthe team wanted to explore the origins of human creativity and productive thinking to try to discover how people come up with completely new thoughts and ideas. For the work, they recruited 60 infants around 12 months old who were not yet speaking and understood only a few words. They began by teaching the babies two new words describing quantity: “mize,” meaning “one,” and “padu,” meaning “two.”

Then the children were prompted to combine these new words with different names of objects, for example to identify “padu ducks” from a choice of pictures. By teaching new words to represent quantities, the authors were able to test the babies’ ability to combine concepts in real time, rather than simply recalling word combinations they already knew from previous experiences.

Creativity: combinatorial processes present from the end of the first year of life

Using eye-tracking technology to monitor where babies are looking, the researchers were able to show that babies can successfully combine the two concepts to understand what is being asked of them. Therefore, the combinatorial processes for developing complex ideas begin to operate within the first year.

“For infants, this ability to combine different concepts will likely help not only to interpret complex linguistic data, but also to learn about different aspects of the physical and social world. For adults, it is an ability that helps to go beyond everything that has already been thought, opening the mind to infinite possibilities,” concluded Agnes Kovacs, co-author of the research.

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