5 Superpowers We All Had as Babies (According to Science)
To many of us, kids are just a squishy bundle of preciousness that can't even take a decent punch. If there's anything super about them it's their ability to produce a seemingly infinite amount of poop. But you only think this because, like most super geniuses, babies revel in deception because they answer to no god. Not unlike Clark Kent, babies everywhere managed to fool the world with their mild-mannered public persona, masking the amazing superpowers nearly all of them possess.
Slap a pair of tights on any random toddler, and you have a bona fide superhero (or, realistically, supervillain). The many kick-ass powers we lost as we got older include:
When deprived of one sense or a skill, a person usually compensates for it in some other way. That's why blind people have amazing hearing and out-of-shape comedy writers are incredible in bed. In the same way, babies who have yet to fully acquire language learn pretty fast how to read the nonverbal emotional states of the adults around them. In fact, they are so creepily skilled at reading your face and body language that experts compare it to "mind reading."
You blame me for never making it as a professional dancer, mommy.
In 2007, the team at the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences conducted an experiment with 18-month old toddlers found they become so sensitive to the subtlest psychological changes in a person's expressions that it might actually explain why they always cry when you come anywhere near them. They can feel the deep-seeded hatred for all things baby under that fake smile of yours.
It gets weirder.
See, their mind-reading doesn't end with fellow humans. A study from Brigham Young University has shown that kids not even six-months old who have never been confronted with a dog in their entire lives, could easily match the different barks of a canine with their corresponding pictures. Which is interesting because HOLY SHIT BABIES CAN UNDERSTAND ANIMALS!
Sadly, these amazing abilities get lost the minute the babies learn how to talk and get their hands on Twitter, becoming the modern age nonverbal-communication cripples. Before that though, they are basically Lil' Professor Xaviers.
You are... utterly disgusted and... thoroughly depressed. Did I get that right, daddy?
Take a look at this picture of two monkeys and see if you can tell the difference between them:
Can't do it, right? You can look at them all you want, but as far as your brain is concerned, both monkeys look equally attractive. We certainly couldn't pick them out from a room full of other sexy primates... but at six months old we totally could!
In an experiment conducted at the University of Sheffield and the University College London, a group of six- and nine-month olds were shown two sets of human and monkey headshots (courtesy of London Police's Primate Crime Division), each including one face they had seen before. Both groups easily recognized the familiar human face among the pictures, but when it came to the monkeys, only the six-month olds could tell one animal from the other.
The results didn't even change even when the pictures were shown to them upside down. It would seem that these six-month olds display a kind of hyper-attentiveness beyond even an intelligent adult; running around the world and absorbing every detail. You're right. Just like Dr. House.
The nine month-old babies didn't fare so well. How exactly do babies go from Mini Monks to primate racists in just three short months? Well, the researchers theorize that as we get older our brains rearrange themselves to only focus on the overall "important" differences between human faces, causing our super senses to rapidly decline, never to be as sharp as when we were barely 0.5 year old. This neuro-remodeling is also what robs us of our other visual super power: Cartoon Vision.
A 2008 study performed in England is hinting at the possibility that kids have an unfiltered perception of the world around them, processing "virgin" colors in a totally different and more intense way than adults do.
Dad running out on your mom, as viewed by your five-month-old self
The thing is, adult brains are very busy and don't have time for such trifle things as actually "seeing" colors. From the time we acquire language (seven to nine months old), our brains start perceiving only the "idea" of a color rather than the real thing, unlike all the toddlers who see the world for what it really is. It's like us adults are living in a perpetual Matrix where everything we see is a lie, and all infant babies are Neo.
Studies show that babies can hear like freaking Daredevil, even without the aid of blindness. Millennia ago, this ability was essential to the survival of our early ancestors, as it allowed them to pick out the faint sound of a herd of saber-toothed squirrels plotting their bloody-murder behind the nearest rock.
Similarly, to a baby's ear, every sound is "vital" and equally audible, be it the person talking right in front of them, or mom in the next room. As we age though, our modern brains start to focus only on a very narrow band of sound, pushing everything "nonessential"--like the voices of adults not currently giving you candy--to the background.
You can have some candy
only after you clean your room
Science is additionally claiming that at merely a few days old, human babies can tell the difference between their native tongue and a foreign language. Imagine if you were in their position, one day snuggled warmly in your bed when suddenly someone rudely yanks you out and transports you to a strange and unfamiliar place populated by giants who constantly produce unintelligible noises. Then, after just a few dozen hours, you can tell which noise doesn't quite fit in with the other. Sure, it would make you basically the least impressive X-Man, but that shit still borders on mutant abilities.
Ever notice that infants don't have such weight problems? What's their secret? Why, a pile of borderline-magic fat, of course.
Around five percent (or six ounces) of all infants' body mass is Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT), or brown fat. Unlike the hideous "white fat" around your belly, chest, arms, neck and feet (seriously eat some vegetables), brown fat is specifically designed to take in calories and burn them for heat until our infants are hotter than Scarlett Johansson's ass that one time it caught on fire. It does so by cranking the babies' metabolism all the way up to 11, effectively turning them into adorable furnaces for surplus calories.
In an adult body, three ounces of brown fat would be enough to burn 400 to 500 calories of white fat a DAY, or around 10 pounds a year, just from sitting on your increasingly sexier behind. Unfortunately, people lose most of their brown fat before they hit adulthood while babies just sit there, stupidly sitting on top of an amazing experience they don't even deserve because they can't appreciate it.
We always knew that kids have an amazing capacity for learning, but we couldn't really call babies "smart," especially after witnessing their dietary preferences for Play-Doh and miniature toy cars. The fact of the matter, however, is that baby intelligence goes much deeper than that. According to modern research, babies are making you look like a stupid jackass, all day, every day.
Humans are born with around 100 billion neurons, same as the number of stars in the Milky Way. However, without a large number of synapses, having lots of neurons is like owning an impressive gun collection with only peas and carrots to load them with. By age three, babies have around 15,000 synapses per neuron... three times as much as an adult in his prime.
Thanks to that, their supercomputer brains can constantly suck up data from their surroundings, then store, analyze and compare it relentlessly trying to understand the world they live in. The infant's capacity for gaining and processing knowledge easily surpasses that of a genius adult mind, making all babies giant nerds by nature. See? Your secret desire to punch them in the face has been perfectly natural all along!
This kid is just asking for it now.
But all good things must come to an end. Our minds just aren't designed to deal with so much information in the long run, so between years four and six the number of synapses in our neurons gets trimmed by more than 2/3rds. It's like chopping off most of your gigantic dick because there was no woman on Earth capable of taming it.
Thus, we go from infant geniuses who might have given us affordable sex androids in the future, to a bunch of stupid kids who can't even color inside the freakinglines.
What the fuck is this shit?
Do have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Know way too much about a random topic? Create a topic page and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!
If these little arrogant shits start acting up, just buy them something from 20 Baby Products Great For Traumatizing Infants or show them one of the movies detailed in The 10 Best Animated Movies for (Traumatizing) Kids.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 05.17.10) to discover how babies secretly run the Internet (Cracked's CEO is actually four-months old).