Do you think that infants know that one plus one equals two?
If you said no, you’d be in good company. Many people think that, according to research by Iris Berent, professor of psychology at Northeastern. But you’d also be wrong. Studies have shown that newborns display an understanding of addition, says Berent. That suggests that humans might be born with those abilities—and perhaps providing more fuel to the long-standing “nature versus nurture” debate.
It’s those wrong guesses that particularly intrigue Berent. Her research focuses on the question of how we think about human nature. Why is it, she asks, that people do not correctly intuit what characteristics or abilities might be innate in humans? What is holding us back from resolving the nature versus nurture questions that have intrigued philosophers, psychologists, and everyday thinkers for centuries?
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Photo Illustration by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University.