A hundred years ago, psychologists described babies' brains as "a buzzing confusion," but today's experts are more charitable. The current consensus is that infants are thinking all the time, busy trying to make sense of the world around them from the moment they emerge from the womb. Babies are little experimenters -- they gather information about their environment and are phenomenal at picking up patterns.
Researchers study babies' thought processes by measuring how long they look at events unfolding before them. They have found that you can hold a baby's attention for a significantly longer period if you do something unexpected. For example, if you dangle a box by a string so that it magically "floats," as opposed to placing it on a shelf as you've done before, a baby is likely to be more engaged. Babies aren't concerned with earth-shattering philosophical questions, but they are thinking a lot about how objects behave and interact. --Hagar Scher
Originally published in Parents magazine, October 2006. Updated 2009