Section 2, Article 1 - As early as the 1950’s, researchers demonstrated that infants had the cognitive ability to distinguish between different visual forms (). Recent research in neuroscience tells us even more about the cognitive capabilities of children. Researchers at Yale University found that infants as young as six months old evaluated situations in a social manner-- that is, they preferred the puppets that demonstrated helping rather than hindering behavior (). In addition, a study performed at Duke University found that infants as young as seven months could connect numerical representations that were visual and auditory in nature. In this study, infants underwent a test to determine if they could match a visual cue containing three faces to an auditory cue that contained three voices (. Similar studies at Berkeley in 2008 found that eight-month-old babies could understand simple statistical patterns (. In terms of cognitive ability, these studies point to the fact that infants are capable of much more than was previously thought possible.
In order to measure cognitive functioning in infants, researchers use a number of methods. Medical technology has provided non-invasive methods that allow scientists to look inside the brain, such as fMRI and EEG. In some cases, experiments are carefully constructed to look like play time. During the session, scientists set up an opportunity for the infant to react and record the response. They might observe what the infants look at and for how long, or they might study whether the infants avert their gaze. In addition, scientists may assess the infants’ choices by observing what objects they reach for. Bodily fluids, such as saliva, may be tested to determine what processes are at work within the body as well. For example, scientists can check saliva for cortisol to help determine if the child is experiencing a stress response to a particular situation.