Children frequently learn by observing people around them. Without any instruction, for example, many toddlers figure out how to turn on a TV or twist open a door handle. Now, scientists have found that 2- year-olds may also rely on probability to make sense of their world.
During agame of probability, many toddlers were able to choose a winning strategy, they found. In the game, the toddlers watched an adult play with one of two blocks to get a prize. When the toddlers played the game, they tended to choose the block that resulted in more prizes.
"In the real world, there are multitudes of possible ways to solve a problem, but how do we learn how to find the best solution?" lead author Anna Waismeyer, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences in Seattle,said in a statement. "In our study, we wanted to see if young children could detect the difference between two imperfect ways of winning a game, and then use the better strategy to their own advantage." [That's Incredible! 9 Amazing Baby Abilities]
During the game, a child watched as a researcher placed a wooden block on a box that triggered a marble to roll out of a nearby machine, producing a noise that entertained the children, the researchers said. One block triggered the marble two-thirds of the time, and a second block of a different color and shape triggered it just one-third of the time.
The children watched the researchers play with the blocks for about 20 minutes. Afterwards, during free play, 23 of the 32 toddlers, or 72 percent, keenly picked the block that triggered the marble two-thirds of the time.