Who's the Boss? Ask a Baby

You're in a meeting with a new agency.  You're not sure who's the boss.  What do you do?

Get a baby.

No joke.  A new study says even babies can tell who's boss.

The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party – all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively, according to newswise.com. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish and earn more, from accolades and material wealth to friends and romantic partners, the web site reports.  
"This social hierarchy may be so naturally ingrained, University of Washington researchers say, that toddlers as young as 17 months old not only can perceive who is dominant, but also anticipate that the dominant person will receive more rewards," adds the site.
"This tells us that babies are sorting through things at a higher level than we thought. They're attending to and taking into consideration fairly sophisticated concepts," says UW study author and psychology professor Jessica Sommerville. "If, early on, you see that someone who is more dominant gets more stuff, and as adults, we see that and say that's how the world is, it might be because these links are present early in development."
The study evaluated the reactions of 80 toddlers, each of whom watched three short videos of puppets in simple social situations. Researchers measured the length of time the children focused on the outcome of each video in an effort to determine what they noticed. 
Measuring a baby's "looking time" is a common metric used in studies of cognition and comprehension in infants, the researchers explained.
"Really young babies can't talk to us, so we have to use other measures such as how long they attend to events, to gauge their understanding of these events," notes graduate student Elizabeth Enright.  "Babies will look longer at things they find unexpected."
The same is true of adults, she pointed out. Adults will focus on the result of a magic trick, for instance, or a car accident on the side of the road. Both defy expectations about what normally happens. 
The study found that toddlers looked an average of 7 seconds longer at videos in which a weaker puppet received more Legos, or when two puppets received the same number, versus when the dominant puppet received more Legos. This indicates that the children didn't expect those outcomes, Sommerville explains, because their lingering gaze suggests their brains were continuing to process the information on the screen. 
The results demonstrated toddlers' expectation that a dominant individual receives more resources and that toddlers are able to adjust their thinking about resource distribution based on their perceptions of social status of the recipients, the researchers conclude. 

hink twice before grabbing that slice of birthday cake: Researchers at Clemson University found that blowing out birthday candles increases cake bacteria by a whopping 1,400 percent. (The Atlantic)


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