Every kiddo is a scientist, according to a recent study. As it turns out, a young brain has the inherent ability to test surroundings for accurate information--preschool-aged children perform steps from the scientific method to understand how the world works, without being prompted to take the steps. It's just how kids think.
Preschool children spontaneously invent experiments in their play, according to research published this month in Cognition. The findings suggest that basic scientific principles help very young brains to learn about the world.
In the latest study, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge and Stanford University in California presented four- to five-year-old children with a specially designed toy that lit up and played music when the child placed certain beads on it.
In cases in which the children didn't know which beads made the toy play, the researchers found that the kids tested each possibility in turn in order to find out -- much like the way in which scientists devise their experiments to test individual variables separately. Laura Schulz, one of the researchers from MIT, explains that it's the same idea that you use when trying to find out which of your keys opens a door: "You might change the position of the key, you might change the key, but you're not going to change both at once," she says.
The result marks a key step in the evolving field of cognitive development. Schulz feels that science is no longer simply an analogy for childhood development, but that this type of play is "a fundamental precursor" to science that is seen surprisingly early on. "In a sense, everyone is capable of inquiry and discovery in these ways," Schulz explains. "What scientists do is apply it to cognitive demands that are at the very edge of human knowledge."
Read the rest of the report on Scientific American. Link