Having watched...and still watching...a child grow over the past 18 months, I know (as much as a non-scientist, or anyone for that matter, can know) that infants are conscious of surroundings from an early age. I noticed how he reacts to different spaces, depending upon whether he has been there before or not. Memory must be a component of consciousness, and kids remember what is interesting (or not) about rooms they have visited.
The same happens with people, depending upon their newness or familiarity. This does not mean that he is not charming, at times, to strangers, but only if accompanied by a trusted person.
One does not need brain wave studies; one must merely observe. But, here's an article from someone smarter than me...
A few nights a week, I sit with a child, while he tries to fall asleep. He tosses and turns, stares at the ceiling. and makes few sounds. Until he dozes off, his eyes are open. Occasionally, he reaches for my hand and squeezes it, seeking reassurance that he is not alone for his journey into darkness.
I wondered what he is thinking. Did he rehash the day’s events--first day at daycare, meals, playground adventures, trips in a car, bath, diaper changes, etc.? Is it possible that his thoughts range further afield to events in his 18 months of life? Or to the time before he “hatched” and went from darkness to light? Does he think about the person sitting with him?
Do children contemplate the future? Had he figured out how to imagine what might happen based upon what he has experience in his long life? No one can answer what goes on in an infants brain, but it’s fun to imagine and wonder. Just watching a child reveals a great deal, but much will go unanswered...
While watching an infant at work, one can have the strangest thoughts…
I have already mentioned that children must think from an early age. One can determine this from things they do. Like a grown-up pondering a buffet, an infant ponders the choice of toys, before selecting one. Infants learn to mimic, but what does that infant think, when it picks up a remote and waves it in the direction of a television?
This raises another question: in what language do infants think? One might assume that they think in the language of the parents. That might be the case in a single-language family. But, what about a child that grows up in the house of Babel, where more than one language is spoken?
Infants collect and store memories, but what language is the on-board computer using? A child enters a room, in which it has been earlier, and crawls to a place it knows and touches things it has touched before. Different rooms have different features, which become familiar. Before choosing a direction, some thought must prepare the way.
One thing is certain: infants do not think about religion, Santa Claus, Satan, Jesus, self-actualization, winning the lottery, or the after-life.
At some point, children learn language. Unfortunately, none has revealed the secret of the language of early thought.
Watching an infant grow and develop, if one has the time and sees him/her every few days--as opposed to every day--can be interesting. Changes are readily discernible and often surprising.
I am not a scientist, psychologist, or any other kind of -ist, so my observations and conclusions do not follow the scientific method. I see what I see and--occasionally--even think about it.
Watching the child, I have concluded that a human being is designed to move, eat, sleep, and, perhaps, make noises--nothing more, nothing less. (I'll ignore the drooling bit.) An infant moves constantly, when awake, unless bound in a chair, car seat, or stroller or restrained by firm hands, preferably more than two. When hungry, he or she lets the world know and continues wailing until satisfied or at least until something is stuck in its mouth. When tired, he or she nods off and often in the most uncomfortable position. But, since infants are flexible, they bounce back into shape upon waking, no matter how contorted the position. Also, infants are not the least bit interested in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, because someone else takes care of the only levels which interest them.
Unfortunately, humans change with age. Much of the blame falls on society, with 21st century customs being especially culpable. But, this process started eons ago, perhaps even with the first humans.
With age, humans become sedentary, lazy even. I doubt that there were many couch potatoes until recently. When not sleeping or eating, adults tend to remain still.
Sleep is now regulated by custom, not merely by fatigue. Society tends to dictate sleep habits. Babies are urged to take naps; adults are ridiculed or even chastised. Something so natural is treated as being unnatural and unacceptable. I discovered that the basic urge to squirm, present in all infants and merely inhibited in adults, when I thrashed around upon awaking from narcosis. This behavior is not unlike an infant struggling against a diaper change.
Eating is the only infant urge that has not changed or been inhibited. People stuff their faces at all times...which explains the couch potato bit, high incidences of diabetes and heart disease, and lack of physical fitness (along with the movement bit above).
If adults could act like infants, perhaps more would be healthier, happier, and...no, few would be wiser.
Surprisingly, one discovers in an infant not necessarily needs, which reside at the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy, but traits. One does not think of an infant achieving self-actualization, yet each is spontaneous, lacks prejudice, accepts what it discovers, solves “problems” through discovery, and is curious. What happens to this refreshing, unbridled curiosity, the urge to discover everything and anything? How can human interest degrade to the level of being interested only in someone named Kardashian? Infants appear to be better human beings, perhaps because society has yet to gets its grubby hands on them...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.