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Babies Seem to Sense Who's Boss
Date:1/28/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Even babies seem to know that might makes right, according to new research that suggests infants use size as a measure to predict who will prevail when two individuals have a conflict.

Scientists from Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted five experiments on 144 infants ranging from 8 months to 16 months old, gauging their reactions to videos of interactions between cartoon figures of various sizes.

When a larger figure yielded to a smaller one -- an unexpected outcome -- the babies watched much longer, an average of 20 seconds compared to 12 seconds, study author Lotte Thomsen said. Previous studies indicated that infants tend to watch something longer when it surprises them.

These reactions suggest people are either born with -- or develop at a very early age -- some understanding about social dominance and how it relates to comparative size, an association found in human and animal cultures alike, Thomsen said.

"To us, this is one of many studies that suggests that babies come into the world with a quite sophisticated set of basic conceptual building blocks that they use to make sense of the world and learn about it," said Thomsen, a research fellow in Harvard's department of psychology and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Copenhagen.

"Learning this is crucial to get along in the social world humans create together and -- ultimately -- crucial for surviving and prospering and having healthy offspring," she added. "So, it would be possible for evolution to pre-program us in ways that help us discover the kinds of social relationships that surround us."

The study is reported in the Jan. 28 issue of the journal Science.

The videos used in the research depicted a large and small block with eyes and a mouth bouncing across a stage in opposite dir
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