Babies learn benefits of hard work by witnessing parents persevering with difficult tasks, finds study

International Teaching


Babies appear to learn the benefits of hard work or “grit” by witnessing their parents persevering with difficult tasks, according to a new study. After watching an adult struggle but then succeed in a task, such as opening a container, babies would make greater efforts to get a music box to play by pushing a button the researchers had mischievously deactivated for the purposes of the test. The infants, aged 13 to 18 months, pressed the button up to twice as many times as those who saw an adult succeed at their task without apparent effort. The researchers said that children in industrialised societies normally learn by being instructed in skills that “adults have already mastered”. And they

warned this might lead them to assume that “most things come easily to adults”. Writing in the journal Science, Julia Leonard, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and colleagues described what happened during the tests.

“We tested the hypothesis that infants who saw even a couple of examples of an adult working hard to achieve her goals would persist longer on a novel task than those who saw an adult succeed effortlessly,” they wrote.

“In experiment one, the experimenter made eye contact with the infant, greeted the infant by name, and used child-directed speech throughout.

                                                                                                   Chemical, Science, Erlenmeyer, Chemist

“In the ‘effort’ condition, the experimenter picked up a container with a toy inside, announced her intention (‘Look, there’s something inside of there! I want to get it out!’), then worked to open the container, narrating her attempts as she proceeded (‘Hmm…I wonder how I can get my toy out of here? Does this work? No, how about this…’)” 

It took 30 seconds of work by the adult to finally get the toy or remove a toy keychain from a carabiner. However, in the “no effort” test, the tasks were completed within 10 seconds and then repeated twice.

“The experimenter [then] introduced the infant to a music box with a button. The button was easy for infants to press, but inert,” the paper said.

“The experimenter said, ‘Now it’s your turn to play with a toy. See this toy! This toy makes music!’

“The experimenter placed the toy out of the infant’s sight and activated the music toy using a hidden button … the experimenter then handed the toy to the infant and left the room.”

Source: The Independent Education News

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