I was at a talk today by an infant psychologist. It was about attachment and the importance of babies’ social interactions. The need for love has long been established as stronger than the need for food in some rather unpleasant experiments sensorily depriving rhesus monkeys in the 50’s and 60’s, which by the way would never pass any ethics committee these days. The following video shows it, it isn’t very “nice” but fascinating nevertheless.
The speaker showed us a video of the “Still face experiment” where the researcher got a parent to show no emotion and not interact at all with their baby and watched their response.
I tried it today on The Boy, it was startling, at only 4 months he reacted just as described in the video, given his level of development (i.e. he smiled, he waved his limbs around, he looked away, he vocalised then cried. He didn’t point or gesture at anything – he isn’t capable of it) what was more startling was that he did it in only about 30 seconds.
It is abundantly clear that if only 2 mins gets this reaction imagine what damage having a disengaged distant parent would be, or worse the psychological damage done by having no stable parent at all like in the Eastern European orphanages reported so widely in mid the 90s.
Apparently your social responses and desire for social interaction is hard wired by about 18 months! The speaker put up pictures of a functional MRI study that showed temporal lobe activity in the sensory deprived kids is grossly reduced – whole bits of brain aren’t turned on when they should be! Some other researchers did weird sensory and social depravation experiments on animals (I missed the details) and their temporal lobes just didn’t develop properly. It’s amazing to think your social interaction and how people treat you determines how well bits of your brain grow!
Try it on your little one – it’s fascinating! (Clearly I mean the face experiment, not depriving them then dissecting out their temporal lobes).
Stupid baby cutesy talk used to make me hurl. Hearing Mums ask their mewling offspring “Has babywaby gottta soggy bumbum?” in the street use to have me reaching fot the nearest fire axe. “I will never talk to my children like that!” the young Nerd thought (just “Nerd” at the time and not Nerd Dad as children were merely hypothetical, in fact The Wife was not only hypothetical but improbable given hygiene and Games Worksop obsession issues).
Hmmmm. What a difference a sprog makes. The other day we realised that our baby babble had taken hold. Bigtime. There is something about chatting away and not expecting any response that seems to absolve you of having to make any sense. These nonsense phrases and babblings, much like the silly songs I previously mentioned, appear without warning. He has now started to respond, mainly in squeals and squeaks.
I started calling our little guy “Monkey Boy” partly because of his excess of hair but mainly because it mildy annoyed The Wife. The Wife took to calling him Little Dude; I suppose because …well… he’s little … and a dude? Little Dude became Dudlelet, then Doodle, Monkey Boy became Monkey ….. and “Monkey Doodle” was coined.
Unsurprisingly all cultures babble at their babies and your babble is dictated by your language and baby noises are dependant on the type and frequency of your babbling. Apparently we all start off the same an then babble becomes language specific so eventually Chinese learning babies babble is totally different to English learning babies. Babbling apparently also teaches babies how conversation works, the structure of speech and how to take turns.
So, as well as making all those around us puke with our cutesy baby talk we are unconsciously teaching them the sounds, structure and timbre of our language. In summary Baba baba boo boo who’ my wuvvwy wuvvwy wickle Monkey Doodle den?
Following my recent post mentioning small boys liking ross things and bugs I had a fantastic small boy moment today thanks to The Wife. She noticed a Tree Weta just outside the front door – off I ran for the camera.
Wetas are great big gnarly bugs that live here in New Zealand. They are nocturnal and live in burrows in the ground or in trees (depending on species) emerging to hunt invertebrates at night. This specimen’s body was about 8 cm long and wonderfully gnarly!
They aren’t particularly dangerous unless you are an invertebrate. Their jaws are pretty hefty and they can give you a nasty nip. This species of Weta is pretty puny by the way, the Giant Weta is even bigger (as the name might suggest). Incidentally Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop in Wellington is named after these fantastic beasties.
So why am I sharing this? What has it to do with being a Dad or bringing up a nerd? NOTHING. I just love big gnarly bugs and this one lives on my porch!! How awesome is that?
As is plainly obvious I am a nerd. Nerds LOVE stats. We really do. I have watched whole cricket matches via cricinfo stats. [For American readers cricket is a bit like baseball in that you smack a leather ball with a big stick, it differs from baseball in that it isn’t crap.] I spend ages messing around looking graphs and pretty tables on sports websites.
I also love the stats page on WordPress. You find such strange things out. Someone from Mongolia once came to this site via yahoo.co.uk. I was surprised a Mongolian waned to read my nonsense but even more surprised that Yahoo still existed! Do you remember Yahoo? I was also very pleased to find that Superman is one of my readers, it is the only explanation of my stats. He was the only visitor to my site one day, in the space of a few hours my drivel was read in Canada, the USA, New Zealand (he should have dropped by to say hello!) and the UK but I only had one visitor. I was very pleased to have finally “broken the game”. I love doing that.
I am certain that I am not the only one who, when they get a computer game, try and break it. My routine is load the game, break the game, play the game. By “breaking the game” I mean trying to walk somewhere the game blatantly won’t let me, putting in some cheat then walking into a fire just to see how quickly and how amusingly the whole thing crashes, and partly to see what fun noises my antiquated PC will make. I am like a moth to a light, plunging myself into glitches to see what happens, I learnt my “trade” primarily in the glitch ridden world of Doom (when I should have been revising for my physics A-Level). Sadly the current crop of games aren’t quite so glitch ridden but therein lies the challenge. The other challenge is actually getting time to play games with The Boy around. As mentioned in a previous post I also like making speakers feedback, videoing the output of my video to get those strange infinitely repeating patterns and skyping my computer with my phone then shouting to see what happens. (NOTE TO SELF – remember to add “loser” to the tags).
I think it’s the same instinct that drives small boys to poke gross and weird things like dead birds and poo with sticks. I hope The Boy grows up to be the curious but not stupid one (i.e. the one that pokes gross stuff with a stick rather than picking it up or tasting it).