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"A Little Counter Intelligence" -- The Discovery Files

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Duke University researchers have found evidence that babies have an abstract numerical sense even before they learn to talk. The study could shed light on how infants first grasp the concept of number.

Credit: NSF/Clear Channel Communications/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

SOUND: (baby)

And baby counts three...

I'm Bob Karson with "The Discovery Files" -- new advances in
science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

Could it be possible that while baby is barely grasping toys, she may be grasping abstract mathematical concepts?

SOUND: (music box)

A new Duke University study indicates that babies may possess the ability to discern the idea of a number and relate it to images they see and sounds they hear.

In the tests, 7-month olds heard the voices of three separate women.

SOUND: (baby, women)

At the same time, they were shown videos of groups of two women and three women. The babies spent significantly more time looking at the picture that matched the right number of voices, apparently transferring their perception across two different senses.

Studies show it seems to be a talent shared by pre-verbal infants and certain animals. Just don't expect real soon to have the baby or the dog doing your taxes.

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