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Infants, as early as six months, do see errors in arithmetic

Eugene -- (Aug. 7, 2006) -- Using advanced brain sensor technology developed at the University of Oregon, researchers have confirmed often-debated findings from 1992 that showed infants as young as six months know when an arithmetic solution is wrong.

Andrea Berger and Gabriel Tzur, both at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, conducted new tests with 24 infants (14 males and 10 females) between six and nine months of age. The infants were shown one or two dolls in a videotaped puppet theater. Their view was then blocked briefly and the number of dolls was left unchanged, or one was added or removed. As in the earlier research, the infants looked longer when the screen was removed and the number of dolls differed from the previous exposure.

In this new case, however, the infants wore special brain-monitoring netting manufactured by Electrical Geodesic Inc., a University of Oregon spin-off company. The 128-electrode netting allowed for much more extensive brain-wave monitoring than was available previously.

The data was analyzed at the University of Oregon. The mean time for infants who saw the same number of dolls before and after was 6.94 seconds. They held their gaze longer (8.04 seconds) when the number of dolls differed. The time of measurement ended when a child looked away from the display.

The findings were published this week online ahead of publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They provide clarity to the scientific debate that surfaced soon after Karen Wynn, a Yale University psychologist, first published her results in Nature (Dec. 31, 1992), said Michael I. Posner, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon.

"The research tends to confirm that the varying looking times of the infants are due to a deviation in their expectations," Posner said. "It also shows that the same anatomy exists in infants as in adults." The latter point, he said, goes against th
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Contact: Jim Barlow
jebarlow@uoregon.edu
541-346-3481
University of Oregon
7-Aug-2006


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