Babies have shown the cognitive ability to decide whether a person will be a friend or not, suggesting that infants can understand and rationalize social cues around them.
The study looked at 64 nine-month-old infants who were split into random groups and made to watch to videos of two adults. The adults ate food and had either positive or negative reactions to the food they ate. The adults either shared the same reaction or had differing reactions.
A positive reaction would be the two adults smiling at each other and saying a friendly "Hi," whereas a negative reaction had the adults turning their backs to each other and saying "Hmp" in an unfriendly voice.
The researchers recorded how long the infants stared at the still screen after each video. The findings showed that babies were confused when adults who liked the same food were unfriendly and when the adults who disagreed about the food behaved friendly.
"When babies see something unexpected, they look longer,"said Amanda L. Woodward, professor at the University of Chicago. "It's out of place for them and they have to make sense of it."
The study showed that babies were able to link the social cues associated with liking a particular kind of food to the reaction of the adults. They could assimilate that adults who liked the same food should be friendly and vice versa, and were taken aback when the expected behavior was not exhibited.
"Parents will be interested to know that babies are keeping track of what's going on in the world around them and are making inferences about social interactions that we previously were not aware of before this study," said Woodward
[University of Chicago]