Toddlers' posture affects memory and learning

Body posture is critical in the early stages of acquiring new knowledge, a cognitive scientist from the Indiana University has found.

IANS| Updated: Mar 19, 2015, 12:52 PM IST

New York: Body posture is critical in the early stages of acquiring new knowledge, a cognitive scientist from the Indiana University has found.

The study shows that the body plays a role in early object name learning and how toddlers use the body's position in space to connect ideas.

"We have created a robot model for infant learning that has far-reaching implications for how the brains of young people work," said professor Linda Smith who conducted the study with a roboticist from England and a developmental psychologist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The paper, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, offers a new approach to studying the way "objects of cognition," such as words or memories of physical objects, are tied to the position of the body.

Using both robots and infants, researchers examined the role bodily position played in the brain's ability to "map" names to objects.

They found that consistency of the body's posture and spatial relationship to an object as an object's name was shown and spoken aloud were critical to successfully connecting the name to the object.

Several studies suggest that memory is tightly tied to the location of an object.

"None, however, have shown that bodily position plays a role or that, if you shift your body, you could forget," Smith noted.

To reach these conclusions, the authors conducted a series of experiments, first with Morse's robots, which were programmed to map the name of an object to the object through shared association with a posture, then with children age 12 to 18 months.

These experiments provide a new way to investigate the way cognition is connected to the body.

"Thoughts, words and representations of objects first take shape through spatial relationship of the body within the surrounding world," Smith explained.

Additional research is needed to determine whether the results apply to infants only, or more broadly to the relationship between the brain, the body and memory, she concluded.