Monday, April 13, 2009

Learning from observing

Young children will change their behavior based on what they’ve learned by observing others. We even have the research to prove it!

I recently attended a presentation by Dr. Andrew Meltzoff, a researcher in child behavior at the University of Washington. He showed a video of an experiment they did with 18-month-old children. While these children were being held in their parents’ laps, they watched an adult demonstrate how to make a buzzing sound with a toy by touching a certain part with a stick.

The adult then gave the child the toy and the child would immediately repeat the behavior they just saw and make the toy buzz. Next the researchers altered the experiment by having another adult, Nina, in the room complain angrily when the first adult buzzed the toy. Now when the children were handed the toy, they looked at Nina and refrained from buzzing the toy. Apparently her angry outburst caused them to think twice about buzzing the toy.

Interestingly, if Nina turned her back on the child, the child would then look at Nina and buzz the toy! Children who are 18-months-old don’t realize that just because someone isn’t looking at you they can still hear what you are doing.

Children learn a lot from observing others. What are your children learning from watching you?
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