For most people, the idea of a baby is pretty straightforward. Perhaps the first thought that comes to mind is how loud and obnoxious they are. Maybe it is about how all they do is eat, sleep and defecate. Or, it might be just how clueless and dumb they are. On the flip side, many have more positive impressions, seeing them as cute and adorable. Some personal development experts even point to a baby’s tenacity as one of the defining traits, as infants are never afraid of failing and simply continue forward despite how many times they might fail. Of course, perhaps the most interesting quality they have that gets lost in adulthood is their ability to know when they have gaps of knowledge. Metacognition plays a big part.
You ever sit around and wonder how certain thoughts just pop into your head? Have you found yourself reading a book only to come across a word you don’t remember learning but somehow thinking you know the meaning? Do you ever find yourself seeing or hearing about new concepts and wondering how you never learned them before? This type of self-thinking occurs quite frequently in the human brain and allows people to really evaluate their own thought processes. In the scientific community, it is know as metacognition, and it is also why people should be able to admit when they don’t know something.
While children over the age of four will often claim to know things they can’t possibly, the common held belief by some has been that metacognition doesn’t really occur until children get older. Researchers at the Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University decided to investigate this theory by using a method similarly employed on rhesus monkeys. They studied 80 infants between 19 and 21 months to observe whether this sort of metacognition was present. You can read more about the study here.
Of course, the disturbing thing is that somewhere along the line it seems humans lose the ability for metacognition. Remember, metacognition is all about being able to contemplate the greater implications of your thinking. It is how philosophy and science alike question the status quo and look for new alternatives. Just as it can be found in infants who look toward outside influences for help, it can also do the same for adults. But why is it that most adults are never willing to admit they are wrong? Have they lost the ability to critically think about their own thought process?
In reality, most of us probably just suffer from some sort of misplaced pride. As people grow, they see others getting ridiculed for not knowing something, or maybe even suffer that ridicule themselves. In effect, they look at ignorance as a negative quality when it really should be approached as a learning opportunity. Unfortunately, this leads to many missed opportunities to grow and quite a few misunderstandings. So, maybe instead of puffing out your chest the next time you are uninformed, speak up and admit it. You are most definitely not the only one.