You might expect that children learn to avoid the big bullies on the playground through experience–trial and error. After all, if we approach Big Bully Moe in the playground during recess and get a black eye or one of our possessions commandeered, we are more likely to avoid strong, bulky schoolmates in the future, making the association between size and aggressive dominance through learning.
However, a new study suggests that babies may have innate expectations of who is going to win a fight, based on size. In one experiment, babies observed blocks “battling” each other and the loser conceding duels by bowing to the winner. Babies stared longer than there was incongruity between size and dominance. If the bigger block ended up bowing to the smaller block, the babies tended to stare longer.
Figuring out dominant figures is key to sense and adapt to the correct social hierarchy in any environment. Social hierarchy in turn is found in nearly all forms of society. It finds its way into the lives of baboons, toddlers, adolescents, and even adults, who are not immune to the discriminatory practices of status and rank.
The link to this article can be found at http://www.boston.com/news/health/blog/2011/01/babies_tune_int.html