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Researchers from the University of Oslo have created reconstructions of what newborn babies can see.

For the first time ever, scientists have combined knowledge of the visual perception of newborns with Mathematical projections about how far away stimuli can be in order to remain in an infant’s field of vision. 

The research indicates that an infant can see up to 30cm away; beyond this, images become almost indistinguishable. An approaching face at any distance larger than 30cm will not be recognised by a baby at all, for example. It is this key motion of ‘approaching’ that the researchers in Oslo have pursued; prior research into infants’ visual fields had involved trying to assemble images that infants could perceive based on different depths of field, but all of the images were still photographs. This new research, however, made use of moving faces and bodies. “The real world is dynamic,” said Professor Svein Magnussen, one of the lead researchers. “Our idea was to use images in motion”.

While this research only indicates that babies are aware of images up to 30cm away, and does not tell us how their brains process this information, it is promising for Psychology researchers investigating how and why infants imitate facial expressions at such a young age. It has long been a debate whether indeed infants do imitate their parent’s facial expressions in the first few months of life, or if this is simply a widespread myth repeated by parenting guides.

Biological Natural Sciences applicants interested in child development should investigate which factors influence the development of eyes in the uterus, to understand the physical developments which occur prior to exposure to a larger wealth of visual stimuli outside of the womb.

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