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Baby see, baby do? Yes, unless you trick them

Date:
December 7, 2011
Source:
Concordia University
Summary:
Babies love to imitate. Ask any parent and they'll report how infants mimic sounds, facial expressions and actions they observe. Now new research shows that infants can even differentiate between credible and non-credible sources. Simply put, most babies won't follow along if they have been previously tricked by an adult.

Babies love to imitate. Ask any parent and they'll report how infants mimic sounds, facial expressions and actions they observe. Now new research shows that most babies won't follow along if they have been previously tricked by an adult.
Credit: © sonya etchison / Fotolia

Babies love to imitate. Ask any parent and they'll report how infants mimic sounds, facial expressions and actions they observe. Now new research from Concordia University, published in the journal Infant Behavior and Development, has found that infants can even differentiate between credible and non-credible sources. Simply put, most babies won't follow along if they have been previously tricked by an adult.

"Like older children, infants keep track of an individual's history of being accurate or inaccurate and use this information to guide their subsequent learning," says senior researcher Diane Poulin-Dubois, a professor in the Concordia Department of Psychology and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development. "Specifically, infants choose not to learn from someone who they perceive as unreliable."

A group of 60 infants, aged 13 to 16 months, were tested as part of this study. Babies were divided in two groups; with reliable or unreliable testers. In a first task, experimenters looked inside a container, while expressing excitement, and infants were invited to discover whether the box actually contained a toy or was empty. This task was designed to show the experimenter's credibility or lack thereof.

In a second imitation task, the same experimenter used her forehead instead of her hands to turn on a push-on light. The experimenter then observed whether infants would follow suit. The outcome? Only 34 per cent of infants whose testers were unreliable followed this odd task. By contrast, 61 per cent of infants in the reliable group imitated the irrational behavior.

"This shows infants will imitate behaviour from a reliable adult," says second author Ivy Brooker, a PhD student in the Concordia Department of Psychology and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development. "In contrast, the same behaviour performed by an unreliable adult is interpreted as irrational or inefficient, therefore not worth imitating."

These results add to a growing body of research from the same laboratory that suggests that even infants are adept at detecting who's reliable and who is not.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Concordia University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Diane Poulin-Dubois, Ivy Brooker, Alexandra Polonia. Infants prefer to imitate a reliable person. Infant Behavior and Development, 2011; 34 (2): 303 DOI: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2011.01.006

Cite This Page:

Concordia University. "Baby see, baby do? Yes, unless you trick them." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111206131944.htm>.
Concordia University. (2011, December 7). Baby see, baby do? Yes, unless you trick them. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111206131944.htm
Concordia University. "Baby see, baby do? Yes, unless you trick them." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111206131944.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

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