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Peering into the amazing mind behind those baby blue eyes

The next time you glance at a baby in a crib, appreciate the fact that you are looking at more than just another cute face. You are peering at what scientists are starting to believe is the greatest learning machine in the universe. The mind behind those bright blue or brown eyes is faster and far more sophisticated than any computer built, say the authors of the new book, "The Scientist in the Crib." Written by the University of Washington husband-wife team of developmental scientists Andrew Meltzoff and Patricia Kuhl and University of California, Berkeley, psychologist Alison Gopnik, the book is a thoughtful and sometimes humorous exploration of how babies learn. In addition, the authors propose that the way babies acquire knowledge has an uncanny resemblance to how adults use the scientific method to conduct research. "The Scientist in the Crib," published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., is not another how-to book. It's a book aimed at parents and other adults who want to know how children's minds work as much as they want to know about feeding them and changing their diapers. The book explains the remarkable transformation that happens in the human brain during the first three years of life and how, often unknowingly, parents and others help the process along. "We are born to teach" said Kuhl, "We do this naturally and quite unconsciously. It seems as if nature designed us to teach babies in the same way it designed babies to learn." The authors wrote the book from the dual perspective of being parents and leading figures in the new field of human developmental science. Meltzoff, a UW psychology professor, has done pioneering research into how much infants know and how they learn. Kuhl, a professor of speech and hearing science, is one of the world's leading authorities on language and speech acquisition. Gopnik is a UC psychology professor and authority on child learning, psychology and philosophy. "The new science shows that babies are thinking, solving problems and actively learning long before kindergarten," said Meltzoff. "Developmental scientists are in the crib trying to understanding babies, but when the babies look up they are also trying to understand us. Of course, as the babies conduct their mini-psychology experiments we adults are sometimes used as their laboratory rats. "Research shows that babies and young children know and learn more about the world than we could ever have imagined. When babies are born they already know many important and surprising things about objects, people and language. Babies also easily and naturally solve new problems that are far beyond the abilities of the most powerful computers. They think, make predictions, look for explanations and even do experiments. And all this spectacular learning happens as part of everyday life in the ordinary child's world of peek-a-boo, drop the spoon and the terrible twos. "It's the same process in science," he said. "As adults we have the capacity to do science because we were once babies. We have this curiosity that in children is called play. Scientists just have bigger and more expensive toys. It's not that children are little scientists but that scientists are big children." In the book, the authors also explore why: _ Children's brains are more flexible than adult's and why what we learn at one point influences what we can learn later. _ Playing Mozart in the crib or showing a baby flashcards is no substitute for a parent talking, playing, making faces and just paying attention to a baby. _ It is necessary to realize the child-rearing environment in the country has changed radically and that new strategies and support for infant and preschool care must be devised. Being in the company of caring adults "is school for babies," they contend. "Our book argues that human beings were designed by evolution to both learn and teach. For humans, nurture is our nature and the drive to learn is our most important and vital instinct," said Meltzoff. ### For more information, contact Meltzoff at (206) 685-2045 or Kuhl at (206) 543-7974 or