It turns out that a Japanese study recently published in the Journal Cell Biology has shown that we as adults are missing subtle visual nuances in our environment that only babies can pick up.
Mind = Blown.
According to the study, when we are very young our eyes and brain see all differences, but quite quickly as we grow older we learn to ignore certain types of differences. This allows us the ability to recognize the same object even if the environment around it has changed or slightly altered how it looks. Light and dark, color shifts, and perspective begin to be valued on a gross scale for the sake of our brain recognizing the object itself as something it has seen before rather than spend energy analyzing in detail all the new changes associated with the object.
Below is an excerpt from Carolyn Gregorie's Huff Post article about the study:
Here's an example, taken from the new study: Look at the three images of snails pictured below and try to pick out the two that look the most similar. While adults would typically see the glossier snails (A and B) as the most alike, a baby sees images B and C as being more similar.
As Martinez-Conde explains, while snails A and B look nearly identical to an adult, they have very different pixel intensity. However, infants can correctly determine that images B and C are the most alike.
For the Japanese study, the neuroscientists examined 42 babies while they looked at the above images rendered from 3D objects and measured how long the babies looked at each object. The researchers could tell based on how long the infants lingered on the image whether they thought it was similar to or different from the previous picture, because it's known that babies tend to look for longer at novel images.
So now you know why young babies can find the most mundane objects so interesting. I feel a sense of appreciation for the small subtle things in life brewing in my mind.