Babies Expect Leaders To Address Unfairness, New Study Finds

Source: The Science Daily

Infants 17 months of age expect leaders — but not others — to intervene when one member of their group transgresses against another, a new study reveals.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, add to growing evidence that children in their second year of life have a well-developed understanding of social hierarchies and power dynamics, said University of Illinois psychology professor Renée Baillargeon, who led the research. The study was conducted in Baillargeon’s Infant Cognition Lab by graduate student Maayan Stavans, who then proceeded to postdoctoral studies on a Fulbright Fellowship at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel.

“We know that adults expect the leaders of social groups to intervene to stop within-group transgressions,” Stavans said. “We wanted to know how early those expectations appear in human development, so we examined the question in very young children.”

The research relied on a well-established method that gives insight into the reasoning of children too young to fully express themselves verbally: Infants typically stare longer at events that unfold in ways they don’t expect.

 

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