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Hidden Brain

Bringing Up Baby

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Fabio Consoli for NPR

Bababababa, dadadadada, ahgagaga. Got that?

Babies are speaking to us all the time, but most of us have no clue what they're saying. To us non-babies, it all sounds like charming, mysterious, gobbledegook. To researchers, though, babbling is knowable, predictable, and best of all, teachable. This week, we'll find out how to decipher the vocabulary, and the behavior, of the newest members of the human family.

In the second half of the show, we'll look at the relationship between children and the adults who care for them. Alison Gopnik, a psychology and philosophy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, says parents—especially middle-class parents—view their children as entities they can mold into a specific image.

"The idea is that if you just do the right things, get the right skills, read the right books, you're going to be able to shape your child into a particular kind of adult," she says.

But, she says, this view doesn't align with the research on children's development. In her latest book, The Gardener and the Carpenter, Alison lays out an alternative way to think about the relationship between parents and children.

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Additional reading (and viewing):

There are a wealth of interesting videos on the language and behavior of babies and toddlers. We recommend:

  • This video of a little girl named Katrina during a dinnertime meltdown. In a 2011 study, Researchers Mike Potegal and James Green found that tantrums involve two predictable emotions: anger, followed by distress.
  • And check out this video of a baby demonstrating repeated syllables known as "canonical babbling."

This episode was produced by Parth Shah and Rhaina Cohen and was edited by Tara Boyle. Our team includes Jenny Schmidt, Thomas Lu and Laura Kwerel. Our intern is Camila Vargas-Restrepo. Follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for our stories each week on your local public radio station.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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