Ever wonder what your newborn sees in the early years of life? One thing we know for sure is that most of their vision is pretty limited at first, and they can see more shadows of light and darkness as their pupils begin to dilate. But for those of us who are parents, what this really looks like has been a bit of a mystery. Until now.
Researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway and Uppsala University and Eclipse Optics in Sweden have teamed up to show us just how much a newborn can see. As expected, a two- or three-day-old infant can recognize facial expressions and may even recognize expressions between 8 and 12 inches (about 30 centimeters). However, if the distance is doubled, the image becomes so blurred that they cannot see it.
You can see this example for yourself:
Unlike other attempts to understand infant vision, this study relied on video because moving images are easier to see than still images. The researchers recorded changes in people’s expressions – from happy to surprised to angry to neutral – and filtered out any details (such as color) that they knew the infants couldn’t get. They then showed the videos to adults, with the idea that if they couldn’t recognize the filtered expressions, there was a good chance that the infants wouldn’t either. These adults correctly named the expressions at a height of 30 cm in three of the four cases, although they had difficulty recognizing them all beyond 120 cm. This confirmed to the researchers that infants can see expressions and faces of people held at a distance of their arms.
But the study, published in the journal Vision, does more than fill in the gaps for new parents. It could also explain why newborns can mimic our expressions in the first few weeks of their lives, when their vision is still developing. Still, more research is needed to tweak and develop this study, said Svein Magnussen of the University of Oslo’s Emeritus Faculty, a co-investigator on the study. “It’s important to remember that we only investigated what newborns can actually see, not whether they can understand it,” he says.
Nonetheless, it’s interesting to get a glimpse of what our babies can actually see. Personally, I was a little surprised at how blurry the image appeared at 30 centimeters. (I always thought my son could see me more clearly!) What about you? Does this image match your idea? Any surprises? Let us know in the comments below!
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