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Babies can detect this sooner than they can talk or walk

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By Pol Allingham via SWNS

Babies can detect symmetry in patterns at just seven months - before they can even walk or talk, according to a new study.

The researchers found the babies were very good at detecting symmetry and asymmetry in abstract mosaic-like patterns.

The infants distinguished the two by looking at the asymmetrical structures for far longer than symmetrical ones and this stayed the same even when the mosaics were made more complex.

And the team from the University of the Basque Country believes it could hold clues as to how babies acquire language.

Dr. Irene de la Cruz-Pavia co-author of the study published in the journal PLOS ONE said: "We examined the spontaneous looking patterns of almost 100 infants when presented with mosaic-like sequences displaying symmetrical and asymmetrical structures.

"[Seven-month-old babies] discriminated between structurally symmetrical and asymmetrical mosaics, and that the length of the sequence (3 or 5 tiles) or the level of symmetry did not significantly modulate their behavior."

"Babies as young as seven months have a robust, automatic ability to detect that a structure is symmetrical."

"This ability coincides with those found in studies we conducted using other stimuli, such as sign language or speech, demonstrating that babies are simply very good at detecting structures and regularities.”

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Researchers aimed to tease out whether babies grasped structures, rules and regularities in the world beyond language.

They said: "The grammar of a language consists of the set of structures and rules of a language.

"I want to understand to what extent infants' abilities to extract structures, detect regularities and learn rules are specific to language or whether they are found in other areas.

“We conducted this study using information that is visual but which is not language. With these mosaics, we were able to see how babies were capable of extracting structure from different media.”

The team claimed this study helps understand infants' fundamental skills and said: "This will enable them to start initially with some of the more accessible parts of grammar and gradually build up to something as complex as the grammar of a language.

"What we want to understand is this: what are the fundamental abilities of babies when it comes to detecting structure?

“We have many more questions to answer. In this study we were able to determine that babies are able to detect structures spontaneously and quickly.

“Now we want to understand when this ability begins, and the degree of detail with which they analyze that structure and what aspects of the mosaics allow them to detect its structure (the shape, the color, both…)."

Until now people had only studied babies’ reactions to simpler images but the mosaics used in the study were cobbled together and didn’t have perfect surface symmetry.

Dr. de la Cruz-Pavia added: “The mosaics employed in the present study are, to our knowledge, the most complex abstract stimuli used to test young infants’ perception of symmetry to date."

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