VANCOUVER, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Infants as young as nine months embrace those who pick on individuals who are different from them, suggesting that infant might have some early understanding of social alliances, according to a study published earlier this month.
"Our research shows that by nine months, babies are busy assessing their surroundings, trying to determine who is friend or foe," said Prof. Kiley Hamlin of University of British Columbia's Department of Psychology, lead author of the study.
"One important way they make these distinctions, our study finds, is based on perceived differences and similarities."
In the study, researchers had babies aged 9-14 months choose which food they preferred: graham crackers or green beans. The infants then watched a puppet show in which one puppet demonstrated the same food preference as the infant, while another exhibited the opposite preference.
After seeing other puppets harmed, helped or acted neutrally toward the puppets with different or similar food preferences, infants demonstrated a strong preference for the puppets who harmed the "dissimilar" puppet and helped the "similar" one.
"These findings suggest that babies either feel something like schaudenfreude -- pleasure when an individual they dislike or consider threatening experiences harm," said Hamlin. "Or babies have some early understanding of social alliances, recognizing that the 'enemy of their enemy' is their friend."
Hamlin describes the behavior as an early form of the powerful, persistent social biases that exist in most adults, who favor individuals who share their origins, languages, appearances, over people with whom they have fewer things in common. Enditem
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