Babies may have trouble walking on their own or stringing together a sentence, but a Concordia University study discovered that they can tell who to trust based on whether a person has deceived them in the past.

“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,” said researcher Diane Poulin-Dubois.

Researchers divided 60 infants ages 13 to 16 months into two groups, where they were met with a tester who was either reliable or unreliable:

“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.”

According to the findings, only 34 percent of infants with the unreliable tester followed suit. However, 61 percent of infants with a reliable tester imitated the behavior.

“This shows infants will imitate behaviour from a reliable adult,” said co-author Ivy Brooker. “In contrast, the same behavior performed by an unreliable adult is interpreted as irrational or inefficient, therefore not worth imitating.”

Source: Concordia University

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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