A baby's view of the world

Researchers have studied the eye movements of 100 babies to determine when they can distinguish between animate and inanimate objects


Scientists have outlined how babies can distinguish between animate and inanimate objects by the time they are four months old.

Describing their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers highlighted that humans make sense of the world around them by organising objects into categories.

During the study, 100 babies between the ages of four and 19 months were shown pairs of pictures representing animate and inanimate things.

Scientists tracked the eye movements of the babies and measured the duration of their gaze.

By the age of four months, the study participants could tell the difference between inanimate and animate objects – for example, they could tell that a man and a crocodile are more similar to each other than a tree.

The scientists highlight that visual categorisation is an incremental process with two milestones.

The first is the animate-inanimate distinction at four months, followed by steps toward categorising objects in a similar way to the adult brain from the age of 10 months.