Infants expect leaders to right wrongs, study finds

Infants expect leaders to right wrongs, study finds
Infants in the study watched as a protagonist bear, in red, either intervened to redress a wrong perpetrated by the bear in blue against the bear in yellow, or ignored the transgression. Credit: Renee Baillargeon

Infants 17 months of age expect leaders—but not others—to intervene when one member of their group transgresses against another, a new study reveals.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, add to growing evidence that in their second year of life have a well-developed understanding of social hierarchies and power dynamics, said University of Illinois psychology professor Renée Baillargeon, who led the research. The study was conducted in Baillargeon's Infant Cognition Lab by Maayan Stavans, who then proceeded to postdoctoral studies on a Fulbright Fellowship at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel.

"We know that adults expect the leaders of social groups to intervene to stop within-group transgressions," Stavans said. "We wanted to know how early those expectations appear in human development, so we examined the question in very young children."

The research relied on a well-established method that gives insight into the reasoning of children too young to fully express themselves verbally: Infants typically stare longer at events that unfold in ways they don't expect.

"By tracking how long children stare at different events, we gain insight into what they think," Stavans said.

The study involved 120 . In a series of experiments, the researchers used bear puppets to enact skits in front of infants who sat comfortably on a parent's lap. Some of the children watched scenarios involving a protagonist bear that two other bears treated as a leader, and some saw a protagonist bear that appeared to have no authority over the other two bears.

In all the scenarios, the protagonist presented the other bears with two toys for them to share, but one bear quickly grabbed both toys, leaving none for the other bear. Next, the protagonist either rectified this transgression by redistributing one of the toys from the wrongdoer bear to the victim bear, or the protagonist ignored the transgression by approaching each bear without redistributing a toy.

"The scenarios differed in the status of the protagonist—was she a leader or not? - and in the protagonist's response to the transgression—did she rectify the situation or ignore it?" Baillargeon said.

"Infants stared longer when the leader ignored the wrongdoing than when she rectified it," Baillargeon said. "This suggests that infants expected the leader to intervene and right the wrong in her group, and were surprised when she took no such action."

The children also stared longer at the wrongdoer bear than they stared at the victim bear when the leader ignored the transgression, as if something about the wrongdoer would explain the leader's reluctance to correct her.

The infants did not appear to be surprised when a protagonist who was not a leader failed to redress the same wrongdoing.

In two experiments, infants consistently stared longer when leaders failed to act against wrongdoers, Stavans said. "But they held no particular expectation for intervention from nonleaders."

In a third experiment, one of the bears announced that she did not want a toy and the other bear took both toys. The infants in this experiment stared longer when the leader intervened to make sure that each bear had one toy.

"It was as if the infants understood that in this case there was no transgression, so they viewed it as overbearing for the leader to redistribute one of the toys to a bear who had made it clear she didn't want one," Stavans said.

The findings provide new evidence that infants can reason about leaders, Baillargeon said. "We knew from previous work that children this age have specific ideas about how followers will behave toward their leaders," she said. "Now we see that they also have complementary expectations about how leaders will behave toward their followers."


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Infants can distinguish between leaders and bullies, study finds

More information: Maayan Stavans el al., "Infants expect leaders to right wrongs," PNAS (2019). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1820091116
Citation: Infants expect leaders to right wrongs, study finds (2019, July 29) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-infants-leaders-wrongs.html
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Jul 30, 2019
"Infants 17 months of age expect leaders—but not others—to intervene when one member of their group transgresses against another, a new study reveals."

-Their group - their TRIBE. Another indication of our domestication for the very unnatural rigors of tribal life. Surrendering the instinct for self-protection to a central authority. 1000s of gens of husbandry has made such odd behaviors genetic.

Jul 30, 2019
Chimps also expect leaders to intervene in conflicts. When alpha chimps do intervene, they always do so on the side of the weaker individual.

Aug 03, 2019
Chimps also expect leaders to intervene in conflicts. When alpha chimps do intervene, they always do so on the side of the weaker individual.
No they dont.

"Male chimpanzees at the Gombe National Park were twice seen to attack 'stranger' females and seize their infants. One infant was then killed and partially eaten: the other was 'rescued' and carried by three different males. Once several males were found eating a freshly killed 'stranger' infant. A similar event was observed in Uganda by Dr. Suzuki, and Dr. Nishida reports an incident from the Mahali Mountains, Tanzania. A different kind of killing occurred at Gombe when a female and her daughter killed and ate three infants of other females of the same community"

"The murder victim, a West African chimpanzee called Foudouko, had been beaten with rocks and sticks, stomped on and then cannibalised by his own community."

Etc

Aug 03, 2019
Coal miners are in a dispute over wages with their employers, and have called on Trump to do something about it. Nothing has been said so far. I don't expect anything ever will be. This is why Trump is a bad leader.

Aug 03, 2019
Coal miners are in a dispute over wages with their employers, and have called on Trump to do something about it. Nothing has been said so far. I don't expect anything ever will be. This is why Trump is a bad leader.
Libs expect Da Guvmint to fix everything. You guys would end coal by force. Trump knows that if it's no longer competitive it will end itself.

That's why trump is a good leader.

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