Even babies understand power
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)
  1. wrap shop near me


    May 23, 2021 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Toilets Riverside

    Good blog you have got here.. It’s hard to find good quality writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    May 23, 2021 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Content Marketing Business

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this article plus the rest of the site is also really good.


    May 23, 2021 at 22:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Interior Designer Orange County

    Hi there! This article couldn’t be written much better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this. I'll forward this post to him. Pretty sure he's going to have a great read. I appreciate you for sharing!


    May 24, 2021 at 05:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Video Marketing Experts


    May 24, 2021 at 07:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Internet Marketing Experts Near Me


    May 24, 2021 at 11:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. https://www.yamatocosmos.com

    Best view i have ever seen !


    May 24, 2021 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Mechanics Near Me

    I used to be able to find good advice from your content.


    May 24, 2021 at 17:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. SEO Marketing Company Near Me

    This is a topic which is near to my heart... Cheers! Exactly where are your contact details though?


    May 25, 2021 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Used Forklift Repair Shop California

    An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a friend who had been conducting a little research on this. And he actually bought me lunch simply because I discovered it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to discuss this matter here on your web site.


    May 25, 2021 at 04:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Forklift Cylinders California

    This is a very good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise information… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!


    May 25, 2021 at 06:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Digital Marketing Business

    Pretty! This was a really wonderful post. Thank you for supplying this info.


    May 25, 2021 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Video Marketing Services


    May 25, 2021 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Social Media Marketing Businesses Near Me

    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before but after going through many of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m certainly pleased I discovered it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!


    May 25, 2021 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Content Marketing Specialist

    Excellent post. I certainly love this website. Continue the good work!


    May 25, 2021 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Content Marketing Business


    May 25, 2021 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Derek Mory



    May 25, 2021 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RV Frame Orange County


    May 26, 2021 at 00:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. photo restoration orange county ca


    May 26, 2021 at 04:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. collision center of temecula temecula ca


    May 26, 2021 at 05:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. rv repair santa fe


    May 26, 2021 at 06:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. RV Batteries Riverside


    May 26, 2021 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Repair Sprinter Seat


    May 26, 2021 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. rv repair center

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day. It's always exciting to read through articles from other writers and practice a little something from their sites.


    May 26, 2021 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Headlights Near Me


    May 27, 2021 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Remodel Orange County


    May 27, 2021 at 02:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. furniture reupholstery orange county

    You need to be a part of a contest for one of the best sites online. I'm going to highly recommend this website!


    May 27, 2021 at 04:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Emmitt Matushevsky

    There's definately a lot to find out about this subject. I like all of the points you made.


    May 27, 2021 at 07:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. esurance near me

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thanks, However I am going through troubles with your RSS. I don’t understand why I can't subscribe to it. Is there anybody having similar RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    May 27, 2021 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Digital Marketing Agencies Near Me


    May 27, 2021 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. ash catcher for bongs

    Dab Mat how to clean silicone nectar collector We have secure servers and exchange zero customer information. The glass storage jar has 2.5 mm thick sides and a super thick 7 milimet bottom. The glass has to be made to exact dimensions in order to for all the pieces to fit together correctly. .


    May 27, 2021 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. rv awning replacement near me

    You're so awesome! I don't believe I've read through something like that before. So great to discover somebody with unique thoughts on this subject. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality!


    May 27, 2021 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. RV Bay Doors Los Angeles


    May 27, 2021 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. box truck body repair

    Wonderful article! We are linking to this particularly great post on our website. Keep up the great writing.


    May 27, 2021 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. toy hauler remodel


    May 27, 2021 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. RV Bathroom California

    It’s difficult to find knowledgeable people about this topic, however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks


    May 27, 2021 at 18:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. RV Shower Los Angeles


    May 27, 2021 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. RV Interior Remodeling Near Me


    May 27, 2021 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. RV Mattresses Riverside


    May 27, 2021 at 23:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. SEO Marketing Companies


    May 28, 2021 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RV Tires Los Angeles


    May 28, 2021 at 02:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. windshield repair fullerton

    Aw, this was a really good post. Finding the time and actual effort to make a really good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and don't manage to get anything done.


    May 28, 2021 at 06:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. vinyl repair near me

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will return once again since I bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.


    May 28, 2021 at 07:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Local Marketing Companies


    May 28, 2021 at 11:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. RV Paint Shop Near Me

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will come back once again since i have book-marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.


    May 28, 2021 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. RV Upholstery Riverside

    Everything is very open with a clear explanation of the issues. It was really informative. Your website is very useful. Thank you for sharing!


    May 28, 2021 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. solar freakin roadways busted

    Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the issues. It was really informative. Your site is very useful. Thank you for sharing!


    May 28, 2021 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. how to repair a slide out on a travel trailer

    This site was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me. Thanks!


    May 28, 2021 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. micro dab rig

    Dab Pads & Silicone Mats silicone pipe with lid We have secure servers and exchange zero customer information. The glass storage jar has 2.5 milimet thick sides and a super thick 7 mm bottom. The glass has to be made to exact dimensions in order to for all the pieces to fit together correctly. .


    May 28, 2021 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. how to fill a bubbler

    Dab Mat 90 degree ash catchers We have secure servers and exchange zero customer information. The glass storage jar has 2.5 mm thick sides and a super thick 7 milimet bottom. The glass has to be made to exact dimensions in order to for all the pieces to fit together correctly. .


    May 28, 2021 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Leave a Reply to Internet Marketing Companies Near Me


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

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.