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Infants’ Unusual Bias Towards Outside Observations


Infants are often seen as egocentric, with their limited understanding of the world revolving around their own perspectives. However, recent research from the University of Copenhagen challenges this notion by shedding light on an intriguing phenomenon—the altercentric bias in infancy. This bias suggests that infants tend to trust the observations of others more than their own. By studying 8- and 12-month-old infants, researchers have discovered compelling evidence of this bias and its gradual decline as infants develop. This unique tendency may serve a purpose in facilitating learning during a critical stage of cognitive development when infants have limited physical interaction with their environment.

Understanding the Altercentric Bias:

To explore the altercentric bias, researchers conducted experiments involving object location memory. In one experiment, 8-month-old infants were shown an animated character tracking the movement of a ball. The ball was hidden behind two screens, and the animated character observed the ball’s transfer from one location to another. Surprisingly, when the ball was revealed to be in the second location, the infants expected it to be in the first location, relying on the animated character’s attention rather than their own observation.

This experiment revealed the altercentric bias in younger infants. They prioritized the attention of the animated character over their own observations, suggesting a tendency to trust external observations more. However, a control experiment where the animated character followed the ball’s location from start to finish resulted in infants showing equal interest in both revealed locations. This indicated that when both locations were observed by the character, the altercentric bias diminished.

Transitioning Towards Self-Trust:

The researchers then explored the developmental progression of this bias by conducting similar experiments with 12-month-old infants. Unlike their younger counterparts, these older infants demonstrated a transition towards trusting their own observations. When the animated character also saw the final location of the ball, the 12-month-olds were able to remember the object’s last position. However, when the character only observed the first hiding location and the infants witnessed the transfer to the final location alone, they looked equally at both places. This suggests that 12-month-olds are in a transitional phase, with some becoming less influenced by others’ perspectives while others are still significantly impacted.

The Role of Altercentric Bias in Learning:

The existence of the altercentric bias in infancy raises the question of why infants initially rely more on the observations of others and later become more independent in their thinking. Researchers propose that this bias facilitates learning during a crucial period when infants have limited motoric abilities and interactions with their environment. Infancy is characterized by motoric immaturity, making it challenging for infants to explore and engage with their surroundings actively. By prioritizing external observations, infants can leverage the information provided by others, compensating for their own physical limitations and maximizing learning opportunities.


Contrary to the common perception of infants as egocentric, research has highlighted an intriguing altercentric bias. This bias suggests that infants initially trust the observations of others more than their own, gradually transitioning towards self-trust as they develop. The altercentric bias may serve a vital role in facilitating learning during a stage of infancy when motoric immaturity restricts infants’ interactions with their environment. Understanding this bias contributes to our knowledge of early cognitive development and emphasizes the importance of social interactions and external observations in infants’ learning processes.

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