Over the past two decades, scientists have shown that babies only a few months old have a solid grasp on basic rules of the physical world. They understand that objects can't wink in and out of existence, and that objects can't "teleport" from one spot to another.
Now, an international team of researchers co-led by MIT's Josh Tenenbaum has found that infants can use that knowledge to form surprisingly sophisticated expectations of how novel situations will unfold.
Furthermore, the scientists developed a computational model of infant cognition that accurately predicts infants' surprise at events that violate their conception of the physical world.
Infant cognition by studying babies at ages 3-, 6- and 12-months (and other key stages through the first two years of life) to map out what they know about the physical and social world.
Elizabeth Spelke, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, demonstrated that infants' level of surprise can be measured by how long they look at something: The more unexpected the event, the longer they watch.