30 March 2012

Are babies more conscious than adults? (from the Boston Globe, 26 Apr 2009)

"[S]cientists and doctors have traditionally assumed that babies are much less conscious than adults, [which] is why, until the 1970s, many infants underwent surgery without anesthesia."

That is what is stated in a 2009 Boston Globe article entitled Inside the baby mind, which raises questions about the nature of the infant mind and curiously asks: What is it like to be a baby?

In short, according to the article, the infant mind is "unfocused, random and extremely good at what it does." The article goes on to mention recent scientific research that has changed traditional ways of conceptualizing the infant mind. This research has revealed that "the baby brain in abuzz with activity [and is] capable of learning astonishing amounts of information in a relatively short time." The research also suggests that "babies can take in a much wider spectrum of sensation," effectively making them "more aware of the world" than adults.

RenĂ© Descartes, too, saw the infant mind as something like a sensory jumble—which is mentioned in both the Globe article and a New York Times article on the same subject (14 May 2009) entitled Babies May Be More Conscious Than Adults

Check out the links above to read the articles. If you'd like to read more about concepts, human concept acquisition, infant cognition, etc., click here for info about Susan Carey's book The Origin of Concepts, and here for info about Alison Gopnik's book The Philosophical Baby, which is referred to in the Globe article.

In QuickThought no. 2, there is related commentary on Carey and the argument for concept acquisition that her book presents. You will also find a link to the Neurophilosophy blog in the sidebar on the right (and here, too).

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