We are born with a sense of justice, which may be why we love superheroes so much.
Have you ever wondered why Hollywood churns out superhero movie and superhero movie? They may be on to something. We like strong characters and personages who protect those who are weaker than they are. Of course we do, because heroism and justice are often awesome to behold. However, it turns out that even at six months of age, we can already recognize heroism.
Of course, as babies, we don't actually understand the intricate moral and ethical aspects of heroic acts. We can't express our preferences for heroes in words either. We can mostly appreciate the finer points of heroism as adults. However, we were born with a sense of justice, regardless of how simple or primitive it initially is.
Our reactions to acts of heroism are complex, says Yasuhiro Kanakogi, one of the researchers of the study. "You first have to grasp the power relationship between the actors, then that the hero's actions are favorable for the victim but not for the villain, and finally, that the hero acted deliberately."
The researchers showed six-month-old infants animations to test their sense of justice and heroism. In these animations of geometric characters, one character chased and bumped into another character. A third character watches from afar.
One version shows the third character intervening in favor of the character that the first one bumped into. A second version shows the third character running away upon witnessing the incident. The researchers then presented the infants with toy replicas of the characters they saw onscreen. The infants chose the replica of the character who intervened in the situation more times than the replica of the character who ran away.
The findings of the study showed that babies can understand the interactions between these characters as well as the power dynamics. They can not only tell which character is heroic, they prefer the heroic character as well. This suggests that we are born with a sense of justice, and even as babies, we have a preference for those who stand up for others.
Get weekly science updates in your inbox!