Babies can learn the value of perseverance by watching the adults around them, a study suggests.
Infants as young as 15 months old who watched an adult struggle at completing two different tasks before finally achieving success also tried harder at their own tasks, compared to babied who saw an adult finish the task effortlessly, Psych Central reports. This means that babies can learn the importance of putting in effort early in life.
The experiments were carried out in a laboratory, but the findings may offer some guidance for parents who want to teach their kids the value of working hard, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Laura Schulz, a professor of cognitive science at MIT, said, “There’s some pressure on parents to make everything look easy and not get frustrated in front of their children. There’s nothing you can learn from a laboratory study that directly applies to parenting, but this does at least suggest that it may not be a bad thing to show your children that you are working hard to achieve your goals.”
There are recent studies supporting this. Recent research showed that children’s persistence can predict success beyond what IQ tests can measure. Other studies have shown that what children believe also matters: those who think putting in effort leads to better outcomes performed better in school compared to those who thought success came from a certain level of intelligence.
The researchers designed a situation in which 15-month-old babies watched an adult do two things: remove a toy frog from a container and remove a key chain from a carabiner. Half of the babies saw the adult succeed at the task three times in 30 seconds, while the other half saw the adult struggle for 30 seconds before succeeding.
The researchers then gave the baby a musical toy that had a button. The button looked like it should turn the toy on, but there was a second concealed button on the bottom that did the job. The researcher turned the toy on out of sight to demonstrate that the toy played music, turned it off and gave it to the baby.
The babies who had seen the adult struggle with the tasks pressed the right button nearly two times as many as those who saw the adult succeed easily. The former group also pressed the button twice as many times before asking for help or tossing the toy away.
There wasn’t any difference in how long they played with the toy or in how many times they tossed it to their parent. The real difference was in the number of times they pressed the button before they asked for help and in total.
Direct interactions made a difference, as well. When the researchers talked to the babies and made eye contact, they tried harder at the task. In short, people can learn at an early age how to make decision regarding effort allocation, the researchers said.
The study was published in the journal Science.