Infants understand social dominance

Jan. 29, 2011 at 8:22 PM
share with facebook
share with twitter

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Danish and U.S. researchers say infants younger than a year old understand social dominance.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, Harvard University in Boston and University of California, Los Angeles, say infants seem to use relative size to gauge who will prevail.

The findings, published in the journal Science, suggest infants show understanding -- perhaps instinctively -- of how relative size relates to social dominance even before they can speak.

"To put it simply, if a big and a small guy have goals that conflict, pre-verbal infants expect the big guy to win over the little guy," lead author Lotte Thomsen of the University of Copenhagen says in a statement.

Thomsen and colleagues studied infants 8 to 16 months old watching videos of cartoon figures of various sizes interact.

"The trouble with working with pre-verbal infants is that you cannot just interview them and ask them what they think. One of the things we know is that infants -- like adults -- tend to look longer at something that surprises them," Thomsen explains.

"If we're right that infants expect the largest agent to have the right-of-way, then they should look at the screen longer when the opposite happens -- that is when the big guy yields to the small guy. And that is exactly what we found."

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories