"Insights From the Youngest Minds"

From Insights From the Youngest Minds, The New York Times, May 1, 2012.
definitions & notes only words
  1. boisterous
    full of rough and exuberant animal spirits
    Seated in a cheerfully cramped monitoring room at the Harvard University Laboratory for Developmental Studies, Elizabeth S. Spelke, a professor of psychology and a pre-eminent researcher of the basic ingredient list from which all human knowledge is constructed, looked on expectantly as her students prepared a boisterous 8-month-old girl with dark curly hair for the onerous task of watching cartoons.
  2. onerous
    not easily borne; wearing
    Seated in a cheerfully cramped monitoring room at the Harvard University Laboratory for Developmental Studies, Elizabeth S. Spelke, a professor of psychology and a pre-eminent researcher of the basic ingredient list from which all human knowledge is constructed, looked on expectantly as her students prepared a boisterous 8-month-old girl with dark curly hair for the onerous task of watching cartoons.
  3. scope
    an area in which something operates or has power or control
    Yet even before the recording began, the 15-pound research subject made plain the scope of her social brain.
  4. prominence
    the state of being widely known or eminent
    Dr. Spelke, who first came to prominence by delineating how infants learn about objects, numbers, the lay of the land, shook her head in self-mocking astonishment.
  5. pitch
    fall or plunge forward
    She dresses casually, in a corduroy jumper or a cardigan and slacks, and when she talks, she pitches forward and plants forearms on thighs, hands clasped, seeming both deeply engaged and ready to bolt.
  6. belie
    be in contradiction with
    The lab she founded with her colleague Susan Carey is strewed with toys and festooned with children’s T-shirts, but the Elmo atmospherics belie both the lab’s seriousness of purpose and Dr. Spelke’s towering reputation among her peers in cognitive psychology.
  7. deprecate
    belittle
    “That’s endearingly self- deprecating, but she sells herself short.”
  8. cognition
    the psychological result of perception and reasoning
    “I’ve always been fascinated by questions about human cognition and the organization of the human mind,” she said, “and why we’re good at some tasks and bad at others.”
  9. gaze
    a long fixed look
    Decoding Infants’ Gaze
  10. presumption
    a premise that is taken for granted
    Dr. Spelke is a pioneer in the use of the infant gaze as a key to the infant mind — that is, identifying the inherent expectations of babies as young as a week or two by measuring how long they stare at a scene in which those presumptions are upended or unmet.
  11. discrete
    constituting a separate entity or part
    They know what an object is: a discrete physical unit in which all sides move roughly as one, and with some independence from other objects.
  12. trajectory
    the path followed by an object moving through space
    Babies know, too, that objects can’t go through solid boundaries or occupy the same position as other objects, and that objects generally travel through space in a continuous trajectory.
  13. scoff
    laugh at with contempt and derision
    If you claimed to have invented a transporter device like the one in “Star Trek,” a baby would scoff.
  14. abundance
    the property of a more than adequate quantity or supply
    Babies also can perform a kind of addition and subtraction, anticipating the relative abundance of groups of dots that are being pushed together or pulled apart, and looking longer when the wrong number of dots appears.
  15. trump
    the suit that has been declared to rank above all others
    In guiding early social leanings, accent trumps race.
  16. catalyst
    substance that initiates or accelerates a chemical reaction
    Dr. Spelke has proposed that human language is the secret ingredient, the cognitive catalyst that allows our numeric, architectonic and social modules to join forces, swap ideas and take us to far horizons.
  17. rote
    memorization by repetition
    Yet Dr. Spelke herself never fusses out or turns rote.
  18. rigorous
    demanding strict attention to rules and procedures
    Scaling the academic ranks, Dr. Spelke still found time to supplement her children’s public school education with a home-schooled version of the rigorous French curriculum.