January 27th, 2011
02:00 PM ET
Even babies understand power
Whether it's a physical fight or a power struggle, intuition tells us that size matters. Babies may agree, a new study suggests.
Even as early as 10 months old, children seem to have concepts of social dominance and hierarchy, Danish researchers say in a study published in the journal Science.
"What we are arguing is that we have an innate concept of social dominance," said Lotte Thomsen, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the study. "It’s hard to see how they [infants] could have learned to understand social hierarchies from scratch."
Of course, you can't ask an infant what he or she thinks about winners and losers. But psychologists say that if babies find something surprising, they will look at it longer. In that way, you can tell what they expect, and what goes against their intuitions.
One of the most important things that all children have to learn is what the social structure of the world is like, Thomsen says. And it's apparent that even before 1 year old, they may already know that relative size difference matters in a conflict.
Researchers did five studies with a total of 144 infants. They presented to the children a minimalistic portrayal of a power struggle through cartoons of block-shaped people of varying sizes. The goal of each block-person is to walk across the stage, but sometimes the cartoon characters will bump into each other. Babies 10 to 13 months old tended to look the longest when the big block-person retreats and lets the small one go ahead, indicating surprise. They did not show the same effect when the small block-person lets the big one go ahead.
But maybe the children are just mesmerized by the big block-person falling over, you say. The scientists looked at that possibility in a separate experiment, and found that babies do not differentiate between watching a small block-person fall down and a big block-person fall down if there is no conflict.
The 8-month-olds in Thomsen's study did not tend to show the effect of surprise when small block-people prevailed in conflict with big block-people. These findings make sense in light of previous research that babies around 9 or 10 months old seem to understand when individuals have goals, Thomsen said.
"It makes sense that they can’t make good predictions before they understand what it means to have a goal in the first place," she said.
The babies are too young to participate themselves in conflicts, and it is unlikely that they learned this out of the blue, Thomsen said.
Why might this happen? The scientists point to elsewhere in the animal kingdom where creatures live in groups among scarce resources. In those cases, there is usually a hierarchy of dominance to set priorities for access to resources. This reduces fighting, because individuals don't go for conflicts in which they won't prevail.
"You need to know when to stand tall and stand your ground, and when to give in and not fight a battle you can’t win," Thomsen said.
Even slightly older children seem to understand this before they can talk, Thomsen said. Separate research has shown that toddlers use aggression strategically, and will take toys from other children only if they think they can win the fight.
Thomsen's research does not prove that these concepts are innate, nor does it discount the role of learning in early childhood development. But the researchers do believe that, instead of starting from scratch, children have the ability to pick up on the social cues in their particular environments and cultures.
soundoff (597 Responses)« Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Leave a Reply to Internet Marketing Companies Near Me
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
Itís hard to find knowledgeable people for this subject, however, you seem like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks
I'd like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this blog. I really hope to see the same high-grade content by you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own blog now 😉
Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the challenges. It was truly informative. Your site is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!
I'm more than happy to discover this site. I wanted to thank you for ones time due to this wonderful read!! I definitely appreciated every bit of it and I have you saved as a favorite to see new stuff in your web site.
Pretty! This has been a really wonderful article. Thank you for supplying this info.
I love it when folks come together and share thoughts. Great website, stick with it!
Can someone recommend Sexy Hold-ups? Cheers xox
This page definitely has all the information I wanted concerning this subject and didnít know who to ask.
There's definately a great deal to know about this topic. I love all of the points you made.
Can I just say what a relief to discover a person that truly knows what they are talking about on the internet. You certainly realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people need to read this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised you aren't more popular since you most certainly have the gift.
Aw, this was a really good post. Taking the time and actual effort to generate a great articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I procrastinate a whole lot and don't manage to get anything done.
Enjoyed every bit of your blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.
Great information. Lucky me I ran across your site by chance (stumbleupon). I've bookmarked it for later!
An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who had been doing a little research on this. And he in fact ordered me lunch because I found it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to discuss this matter here on your web page.
Nono’s Mags & Tyres has a range of alloy wheels and tyres that have been handpicked and manufactured for the New Zealand market.
certainly like your web site but you need to test the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very troublesome to inform the truth nevertheless I will definitely come again again.