Babies too judge book by its cover

Washington: Babies seem really know how to live by the idiom “better safe than sorry” as a new study has revealed how they deal with a person they think is prone to anger.

Two new research studies with hundreds of 15-month-old infants demonstrated that babies form fast opinions about others and make attempts to appease adults they consider prone to anger.

The research from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) reveal for the first time that 15-month-old babies generalize an adult’s angry behaviour, even if the social context has changed.

Lead author Betty Repacholi said that the research suggests that babies will do whatever they can to avoid being the target of anger. At this young of an age, they have already worked out a way to stay safe. It’s a smart, adaptive response.

In one of the studies, published in the March issue of Developmental Psychology, Repacholi and co-authors wanted to see how exposing babies to an unfamiliar adult’s anger toward another adult would affect the babies’ behavior in a new situation. Do the babies assume that the initial negative encounters would happen again?

“Our research shows that babies are carefully paying attention to the emotional reactions of adults,” said co-author Andrew Meltzoff, adding “Babies make snap judgments as to whether an adult is anger-prone. They pigeon-hole adults more quickly than we thought.”

A second new study by Repacholi, Meltzoff and team suggests that babies are capable of coming up with appeasement gestures in situations involving anger-prone adults. The findings are published online and will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Infancy.

Together the studies illustrate how babies make quick judgments about people’s emotional qualities; can have negative emotions dominate their perceptions of a person’s character; and tend to assume a person with a history of anger will become angry again even if the situation has changed.

“Our studies show that babies are very tuned into other people’s anger,” Repacholi said. “For parents, it’s important to be mindful of how powerful that emotion is for babies.” (ANI)