When Children Beat Adults at Seeing the World

It is such a joy to learn to see the world through the eyes of children.  To allow children to teach us how to worship God is essential because it is effortless for them.  They see things they we do not see because they notice what is there and what is not there.  It is easy for them to believe in someone greater than themselves.  It is easy for them to use their imagination to connect with the Maker of the Universe.  It is not a stretch for them to believe in power beyond themselves.  Their faith in the impossible is strong.  That is why they are the most powerful teachers of God and worship because they listen and observe.

The following article talks of an experiment with children and adults on "noticing."  In our fast-paced world, it is the 'slowing down to notice' that gets left out.  This is all the more reason to slow down, notice the beauty and what we are missing going about our daily lives.  What are we missing?  What are we not seeing.  What if there is a world that is going on around us that we are meant to see that would allow us to see God working around us?

When Children Beat Adults at Seeing the World

When Children Beat Adults at Seeing the World

Experiments with youngsters of 4 and 5 show how attentive they can be

A few years ago, in my book “The Philosophical Baby,” I speculated that children might actually be more conscious, or at least more aware of their surroundings, than adults. Lots of research shows that we adults have a narrow “spotlight” of attention. We vividly experience the things that we focus on but are remarkably oblivious to everything else. There’s even a term for it: “inattentional blindness.” I thought that children’s consciousness might be more like a “lantern,” illuminating everything around it.
When the book came out, I got many fascinating letters about how children see more than adults. A store detective described how he would perch on an upper balcony surveying the shop floor. The grown-ups, including the shoplifters, were so focused on what they were doing that they never noticed him. But the little children, trailing behind their oblivious parents, would glance up and wave.
Of course, anecdotes and impressions aren’t scientific proof. But a new paper in press in the journal Psychological Science suggests that the store detective and I just might have been right.
One of the most dramatic examples of the adult spotlight is “change blindness.” You can show people a picture, interrupt it with a blank screen, and then show people the same picture with a change in the background. Even when you’re looking hard for the change, it’s remarkably difficult to see, although once someone points it out, it seems obvious. You can see the same thing outside the lab. Movie directors have to worry about “continuity” problems in their films because it’s so hard for them to notice when something in the background has changed between takes.
To study this problem, Daniel Plebanek and Vladimir Sloutsky at Ohio State University tested how much children and adults notice about objects and how good they are at detecting changes. The experimenters showed a series of images of green and red shapes to 34 children, age 4 and 5, and 35 adults. The researchers asked the participants to pay attention to the red shapes and to ignore the green ones. In the second part of the experiment, they showed another set of images of red and green shapes to participants and asked: Had the shapes remained the same or were they different?
Adults were better than children at noticing when the red shapes had changed. That’s not surprising: Adults are better at focusing their attention and learning as a result. But the children beat the adults when it came to the green shapes. They had learned more about the unattended objects than the adults and noticed when the green shapes changed. In other words, the adults only seemed to learn about the object in their attentional spotlight, but the children learned about the background, too.
We often say that young children are bad at paying attention. But what we really mean is that they’re bad at not paying attention, that they don’t screen out the world as grown-ups do. Children learn as much as they can about the world around them, even if it means that they get distracted by the distant airplane in the sky or the speck of paper on the floor when you’re trying to get them out the door to preschool.
Grown-ups instead focus and act effectively and swiftly, even if it means ignoring their surroundings. Children explore, adults exploit. There is a moral here for adults, too. We are often so focused on our immediate goals that we miss unexpected developments and opportunities. Sometimes by focusing less, we can actually see more.
So if you want to expand your consciousness, you can try psychedelic drugs, mysticism or meditation. Or you can just go for a walk with a 4-year-old.


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