Your Babies #024: Liliana laughing at a paper bag

Babies will laugh at almost anything as this video of 5 month old baby Liliana shows. The video was sent by her Auntie Karina, who says “my sister found out just how much laughter the shake of a bag could bring to her 5 month old baby girl.  Her laughter is the sound of pure happiness”

As adults we find it harder to laugh and be so happy with the world. But fortunately, babies are there to remind us.

Super happy growing baby

Parents filmed 1 second of video of each day of their son from 3 months until his 1st birthday. My main observations are that he is a very happy baby and he has a LOT of different outfits.

You might ask how many babygrows does a growing baby need? But surely one of the main reasons for having a baby is to be able to dress it up in lots of cute outfits.  My favourite one comes at 3m09s 🙂




dog sees itself in a mirror

Cats and dogs failing the mirror test

When young humans see themselves in the mirror, more often than not they point and laugh. Young dogs and cats bark and scratch, as this video shows.

At least i think those are all puppies and kittens. From what I remember of our family pets,  cats and dogs get used to their reflections. Is that your experience?

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Your Babies #022: The baby in the mirror

Maciej & Ola sent us this video of their 4 month old baby Frederick seeing himself in the mirror for the first time. He’s not entirely sure what’s going on but he likes it! At four months old Frederick is too young to start to work out that the baby in the mirror is him. But he knows there is something unusual happening here.

To me it looks like Frederick keeps waiting for the baby to interact with him and then gets surprised by the synchrony. He won’t be consciously aware that this charming stranger is literally mirroring everything he does. But he is aware it is not the normal way things are. Turn taking is built into the foundations of all human interaction. Conversations and non-verbal interaction alternate between partners. Parents start doing this with their babies from the very beginning. It’s a subtle but ubiquitous feature of the world that even a four month old might have picked up on. So an interaction like this which breaks that rule must seem strange, but nice!

Although not all babies are so quick to accept this new phenomena..

Especially, when parents or passing psychologists play tricks on them.

The Baby in the Mirror is also the title of an excellent memoir of infancy by British developmental psychologist Charles Fernyhough. As suggested by it’s US title “A Thousand Days of Wonder”, it is a reflection on the first three years of the life of his daughter Athena. Fueled by his novelist’s power of description and parent’s pride, he poetically combines his scientist’s sense of wonder with her own insatiable childish curiosity. I can highly recommend it.

A baby in the mirror - Charles Fernyhough

Here’s a short extract about babies and mirrors:

Infants are fascinated by mirrors, of course. Charles Darwin noted that his baby son Doddy, at four and a half months, would repeatedly smile at his own reflection and that of his father, appearing to take them for separate beings. […] Doddy … would have had little in the way of self to be a stranger to. He wasn’t yet aware that he had one single, indivisible presence, and so he couldn’t have been surprised to see it multiplied in this way.

Two months later, Doddy’s understanding of mirrors had taken a step forward. Facing the mirror in front of his father, he now seemed to realise that his father’s reflection was connected to the person standing behind him. When Darwin made a face in the mirror, Doddy turned to look at the man, not at his reflection. We saw Athena doing something similar at the same age. […] She understood something about the mechanics of reflection, that what you see in the mirror si not just an extension of the world but a special version of it. She was far from having a full understanding of it, but the looking-glass world was becoming real.

Knowing that she understood something about mirrors made her reaction to her own reflection that much more interesting. Here she is at the same age, being held up close to the wardrobe mirror. Her eyes are wide. She stares at her reflection and then darts a couple of glances into the corners of the mirror, as though establishing the limits of this weird version of reality. Then she reaches forward excitedly, patting at the glass with both hands. There is a gleeful shout, a smile of pleasure, but her eyes are still active, looking the reflected stranger up and down in what could almost be taken for suspicion. She stays rapt like this for quite a while. She may be noting the connection between her own actions and those she sees reflected: when I bat my hands forward like that, the baby in the mirror does it too. From the inside, from the sense that she has of her own body’s movements and position, she has information about what she is doing; and now the mirror refects the same information back at her. She can imitiate its imitations. She recognises that this specular creature has something to do with herself, and no one else. At the same time, she knows that it is not her; it exists in a different location, flat against our old walnut-wood wardrobe, and it does its corresponding at a distance.

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Mother’s singing makes baby emotional : UPDATE

This is the latest baby to make waves on youtube. The baby seems to be showing a remarkable range of emotions in response to her mother’s singing of a sad song.

Quite a lot of people have asked me to explain this video. But I have to admit that I don’t really know. However, many other baby scientists have taken an interest too. Kate Gammon at the the Kinderlab blog has asked around and reports on a few expert opinions:

“I imagine that the video of the baby’s response to her mother’s singing is popular because it appears to show a sweet sentimentality at 10 months of age,” says Susan Jones, a professor of psychology at Indiana University who studies infant communication. “However, the baby’s facial expressions are more consistent with a conflict between sociality and fear – perhaps a positive social response to her mother’s face, and fear in response to her mother’s low and loud singing voice, which is not like her speaking voice. Babies at this age often react negatively to unfamiliar things, including new people, and familiar people with something out of whack (e.g., wearing a hat).”

What Does That Cute Baby Video Actually Show?

I  think they have it basically right that one ought to very careful of over-interpreting baby’s reactions to things in adult terms. A lot of the time their reaction is at a much simpler level.  But it is still weird that the babies reaction hovers in an mildly worried and sad state. Normally that would quickly transition over into tears. A bit like this:

Cats love babies… but babies STILL love dogs!

After my previous post insisting that babies think dogs are funnier than cats, a couple of people sent me a link to this video compilation entitled “Cats love babies”.

There’s definitely a lot of love there. Or at the very least, a fair amount of mutual bemused tolerance. There aren’t many laughs though. Unlike here:

Plenty of laughs and plenty of wagging tails too.