I’ve seen it mentioned many times that if a baby or toddler can’t directly see you they think you don’t exist, but I can’t really find any concrete information on it online. There seem to be a lot of problems with this. For one, how can you tell what a baby is thinking? Okay, maybe for a toddler, but I almost exclusively hear the baby one reported.
Second, and what I think is the main problem, is that babies at least seem to have a concept that people tend to them. If they didn’t believe anything they couldn’t directly observe at that moment existed, it doesn’t seem likely that they’d bother crying. Especially at the later stages of infancy where some babies start exhibiting very clear behaviour of attention whoring, where they cry not because anything is wrong, but because they want attention. I suppose you could rationalize as some sort of operant conditioning, where they don’t realize that an “agent” comes to feed them, but rather a cause-effect relationship between crying and being fed. In addition, if anything not in their direct line of sight doesn’t exist, why do they seem to feel more comfortable around their parents (a sign that they remember them in some way)?
I could understand, maybe, if the fact was that they didn’t realize that things not directly observable were close to them, i.e. thought they went into a different room, but the whole “they don’t even know you exist!” thing seems a bit of a philosophical notion to pin on an 8 month old.
So where did this originate? Is it even true? Is it one of those things that originally meant something useful in Early Childhood Development and then got misreported by the media? It seems like it’s something that might have been corrupted from the development of empathy. I have loose memories of studying something about childhood development of empathy (or maybe it was Kohlberg’s stages of morality, I can’t really recall), where it was said that until age 5-8 or so they don’t really comprehend that other people think and feel just like they do. It seems pretty easy to corrupt that into not thinking you exist. But I’m just theorizing now, I’m curious what the facts on the claim are.