Baby brainpower fuels adult success

CASE WESTERN (US)—Infants who have the ability to process new information at an early age—even as early as 6 months old—achieve a higher level of academic excellence as young adults, according to a new study.

Intelligence involves processing new information and then making associations with other information throughout life, says study author Joseph Fagan, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University. These processes, explains Fagan, work together to allow an individual to expand knowledge.

Fagan developed the Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence, which measures the response infants have to pictures of novel objects, more than 20 years ago. The test works by pairing two pictures together for a set period of time.

A researcher watches the length of time an infant looks at the pictures. Then one of these pictures is paired with a new image and again the time the infant focuses on the new and old images is recorded. Infants generally spend about 60 percent of the time looking at new images.

In the latest research, Fagan and his co-investigators Cynthia Holland from Cuyahoga Community College and undergraduate student Karyn Wheeler revisited 61 young adults who had taken the Fagan Test during their first year of life. They also looked at the subjects’ first IQ tests at the age of 3 and compared them with their scores at age 21.

The researchers found that the early ability to process novel information is associated with IQ scores and academic achievement later in life.

Attention to novelty “tells us that intelligence is continuous from infancy to adulthood” and “underscores the importance of information processing as a means for studying intelligence,” the researchers say. This knowledge may help researchers understand how genetics and environment influence intelligence, they conclude.

The findings appear in the journal Intelligence.

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