I was relating an anecdote to a co-worker yesterday about how it was so incredible to watch a child grow and develop. (Side note: it really is.) I told him that it was neat to see them make connections and I even invoked the shopworn sentiment about seeing things as through the eyes of a child. I don't exactly know what came over me but the thought percolated in my grey matter overnight apparently and some concluding introspection in the shower this morning led me to an insight.
I think the reason why we find children's cognitive development so fascinating is that it reminds us that we were once at that stage. I know for a fact that I thought that when I was talking to my co-worker, but if you think about it that really only gets you so far in explaining the feeling you get when children make new observations and discoveries. Plus, it doesn't explain why the feeling is renewed with each new conceptual growth and identification.
The shower moment came when I realized that I was simultaneously thinking, "Look how far I've come!" It's a reminder of our own cognitive achievement and the feelings that result are pride and satisfaction. I also think that it's an automatized response on a subconscious level because I was not aware of it even after some preliminary introspection. I believe it might be at work even with adults that don't have children since there's nothing inherent in the evaluation about child-possessing.
If you could, take a moment and do your own introspecting. Am I right about this or does your investigation differ? I'd love to get some outside opinions on this.