Baby mind

Jonah Lehrer had an article in the Boston Globe, “Inside the Baby Mind”. (here)


  It describes the hyper-awareness of the young mind.

…Unlike the adult mind, which restricts itself to a narrow slice of reality, babies can take in a much wider spectrum of sensation – they are, in an important sense, more aware of the world than we are…
Gopnik argues that, in many respects, babies are more conscious than adults. She compares the experience of being a baby with that of watching a riveting movie, or being a tourist in a foreign city, where even the most mundane activities seem new and exciting. “For a baby, every day is like going to Paris for the first time,” Gopnik says. “Just go for a walk with a 2-year-old. You’ll quickly realize that they’re seeing things you don’t even notice.”…
In a sense, there’s a direct trade-off between the mind’s flexibility and its proficiency. As Gopnik notes, this helps explain why a young child can learn three languages at once but nevertheless struggle to tie his shoelaces.
But the newborn brain isn’t just denser and more malleable: it’s also constructed differently, with far fewer inhibitory neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals that prevent neurons from firing. This suggests that the infant mind is actually more crowded with fleeting thoughts and stray sensations than the adult mind. While adults automatically block out irrelevant information, such as the hum of an air conditioner or the conversation of nearby strangers, babies take everything in: their reality arrives without a filter. As a result, it typically takes significantly higher concentrations of anesthesia to render babies unconscious, since there’s more cellular activity to silence.
The hyperabundance of thoughts in the baby brain also reflects profound differences in the ways adults and babies pay attention to the world. If attention works like a narrow spotlight in adults – a focused beam illuminating particular parts of reality – then in young kids it works more like a lantern, casting a diffuse radiance on their surroundings.
“We sometimes say that adults are better at paying attention than children,” writes Gopnik. “But really we mean just the opposite. Adults are better at not paying attention.
…As Gopnik notes, this mental state – the experience of being captivated by entertainment – is, in many respects, a fleeting reminder of what it feels like to be a young child. “You are incredibly aware of what’s happening – your experiences are very vivid – and yet you’re not self-conscious at all,” she says. …Gopnik notes that a number of other situations, from Zen meditation to the experience of natural beauty, can also lead to states of awareness so intense that the self seems to disappear. …
If people could never regress into this babylike consciousness, then we’d struggle with the kind of tasks that require us to stop being self-conscious and lose ourselves in the job. Such moments are often described as “flow” activities, and can occur whenever we’re completely captivated by what we’re doing…

What an interesting picture of the mind learning about the world almost from scratch!

One thought on “Baby mind

  1. Very intresting post, it makes total sense, I learn some cool stuff here, and reasure other stuff I think.
    Have you checked the mind and life institute, where the dalai lama joins neuroscientists? I bet you did but if not please do, and read their books if you have time, you might learn some stuff (at least I did)

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