Starting at about 6 months old, babies stop looking into their caregivers' eyes and start looking at their lips to figure out how to make sounds correctly. So one day your baby is bonding through eye gazes and gentle coos, the next day the baby says "Fuck this, I'm going to learn how to talk." And his gaze drops and starts watching the speakers' mouths.
Researchers figured the phenomenon out by studying babies at ages 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 months old. At 4 months old, babies stared at the speakers' eyeballs. At 6 months, they split their time between the eyes and mouth. The 8- and 10-month-olds focused exclusively on the mouths. By 12 months, the kids spontaneously switched backed to eye contact -- unless the scientists used Spanish speakers on babies who came from English homes. In those cases, the older babies kept their eyes trained on the mouths, because they still had some learning to do.
"Your conjugations are atrocious, tonto."
In other words, we have a natural instinct to quit bonding through eye contact and start communicating with words, and we make the transition without help from flash cards or Rosetta Stone or worried grandmothers who secretly think we're developmentally delayed. And every sound you've ever learned how to make was acquired during a six-month window before your first birthday. It kind of makes everything you've done since then look pretty lame, huh?
Babies Are Amazing Bullshit Detectors
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Among the many advantages of adulthood is the loss of complete gullibility. You don't need a mirror to know that your dad didn't take your nose, you've outgrown that shit. Except you actually outgrew that shit when you were still sitting around in your pee-pants unable to articulate complete thoughts. Not only are babies adept at determining when someone is lying to them, but they totally judge them for it.
"I'll remember you tried to pass this off as Fisher Price when it comes time to stuff you two idiots into a nursing home."
The best part about this fact is how researchers figured it out -- by deliberately lying to kids in the most dickish way possible. Sixty babies between 13 and 16 months were put into two groups. The children in the first group had the privilege of watching a grownup fake excitement over opening a box, only to find out the box was totally empty. In the second group, the grownups got orgasmically excited over a box that actually had a toy in it, presumably one that was appropriate for babies.
In part two of the experiment, the same grownups with the boxes demonstrated how to turn on a light -- with their foreheads. Sixty-one percent of the babies in the group with the non-lying adult actually trusted their adult enough to copy them by trying to turn on light switches with their hilariously oversized heads. In contrast, only 34 percent of the babies placed with the liars trusted them enough to use their foreheads to do anything, much less turn on a light switch.
In conclusion, tell the truth to your kids so they will smash their faces into things.
So remember that the next time you try to trick your child into eating pea puree because it tastes like "ice cream." You might just cast yourself as an unreliable adult, unworthy of imitation. Then again, they're going to probably figure that out eventually anyway.
Zion Lights also writes about things that have nothing to do with babies at www.zionlights.co.uk. You can find her on Twitter @ziontree, where she tweets loudly, like everybody else.
For more reasons to fear all things cute, check out 6 Shockingly Evil Things Babies Are Capable Of and The 5 Most Horrible Things Nobody Tells You About Babies.
Related Reading: Did you know a crazy man once designed a hypodermic needle that looked like a bunny to trick infants into getting their vaccines? Read about that, and other terrifying baby products by clicking that link. More interested in all the insane ways our body tricks us into loving babies? Read this article and learn how infants are basically just tiny bald drug dealers. And did you know babies also had mild telepathy and superhearing? That's just the tip of the tiny super powers iceberg, and you can read all about it here.