Why Do Infants Gradually Lose Their Abilities As They Grow Up?


PureInsight | July 15, 2002

It is generally accepted that as people grow up, their knowledge increases and their abilities improve. Is this really the case?

According to a recent scientific study published on May 17, scientists from the University of Minnesota (US), the University of Sheffield and University College London (UK) tested 6-month old infants, 9-month old infants, and adults on their ability to differentiate between faces of different human beings, as well as those of different animals such as monkeys. The results showed that as infants grow older, their abilities to differentiate faces, especially faces of animals, gradually degrade. For example, infants under 6-months old were able to differentiate monkeys’ faces very easily; while for 9-month old infants, such an ability dropped to the same level as differentiating between the faces of human beings. In contrast, the ability to differentiate between the faces of human beings was the same for both age groups.

Interestingly enough, the infants’ capabilities are not just limited to these areas. Research showed that while 6-month old infants could differentiate almost eleven languages, 9 to 12 month old infants could only differentiate within their own initial language

Research from McMaster University in Canada also supports these findings. Researchers found that although newborns need some time to adapt, they quickly possessed the ability to differentiate all kinds of faces. An adult’s ability to differentiate between the faces of animals, especially those unfamiliar ones, were significantly lower than the ability to differentiate between the faces of human beings. For an infant, however, its abilities to differentiate faces, animals or humans, were equally excellent.

This research tells us one thing: although knowledge seems to accumulate as people grow up, many abilities actually decline. There are many cases of prodigies growing up into adults of mediocre achievements all around us. This was because their process of learning is also the process of acquiring notions. The fact is, among the knowledge that is taught in the educational system, how much of it is the true understanding of nature and society? As a consequence, the path of learning the truth becomes arduous and lengthy.

As a matter of fact, all kinds of prejudices and flawed notions, such as selfishness, that people have, are also unconsciously accumulated day by day. By the time a person grows up, however, all sorts of such elements become even more deeply rooted, and the virtuous nature of human beings is almost completely buried. It is just like a piece of clean, white cloth. Once it is dipped into a jar of dye, it is hard to restore it to its original color.

As a person grows up, they do not only lose their inborn purity, but also their wisdom. We can imagine that virtue can be preserved only if one is kept away from being contaminated by incorrect notions at a very young age. This is also the only way to possess great wisdom. However, it is very hard to achieve this.

In reality, cultivation practice throughout human history is a path of “returning to the origin”, a course of returning to life’s pure and virtuous nature.



2.Pascalis, O., M. de Haan, and C.A. Nelson, “Is Face Processing Species-Specific During the First Year of Life?” Science, 2002. 296 (5571): p. 1321-3.


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