What does it have to say about our society?
Previous studies showed that toddlers generally expect resources to be shared equally--from Lego pieces to milk and crackers. However, a new study found that this might differ when social differences comes in.
Utilizing 80 17-month-old toddlers, five different experiments were conducted. All include having the infants sit on their respective parent's lap and watch human-like puppet videos. The first few videos involve showing puppets sitting down on a purple chair and a brown stool. The second set, however, showed the puppets pushing each other out of the purple chair. Later on, the pushier puppet won and got to sit it such chair.
The same puppets were then given Lego pieces to play with. When both puppets were behaved, participants expected them to have equal share of Lego pieces, showing surprise when one puppet receives more. However, when seen fighting, participants seem to expect the pushier, dominant puppet to get more.
This experiment is stunning as it shows evidence on how even as young as 17-month-old toddlers follow social cues and expect people to receive differently based on that.
“They are tuned to what they observe – who is more powerful or competent – and use that to make further predictions,” says team member Hyo Gweon at Stanford University in California.
“The fact that dominance and resource notions are aligned and established so early may have consequences for larger societal issues,” says team member Jessica Sommerville of the University of Washington, Seattle. “This might help to explain why people endorse egalitarian resource distributions, yet we struggle to change the status quo in which some folks wind up with more resources even if they are undeserving of them.”