• Study: Babies Imitate Behavior of “Reliable” Adults

    Researchers discover how children distinguish reliable from unreliable behavior.
  • baby puppetBabies as young as between 13 and 16 months can already sense which adults are more or less “reliable”. This is what researchers from the Concordia University in Montreal discovered when they set up an experiment involving 60 babies aged 13 to 16 months old. These babies were divided into 2 groups; one group falling under the “unreliable” group and the other falling under the “reliable” group. 

    For the unreliable group, the “unreliable” experimenter would look inside a box, show expressions of excitement, and then invite the babies to look inside the box, which was empty. 

    The “reliable” experimenter in the second group, on the other hand, performed the same act but the box actually contained a toy. 

    For part two of the researchers’ experiments, using the same experimenters, the adult used his forehead to switch on a push-on light. Results showed that 61 percent of the babies from the reliable group and a mere 34 percent of the babies from the unreliable group imitated and used their foreheads to switch on the push-on light.

    Said researcher Ivy Brooker, "This shows infants will imitate behavior from a reliable adult. In contrast, the same behavior performed by an unreliable adult is interpreted as irrational or inefficient, therefore not worth imitating."

    Adds Diane Poulin-Dubois, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the Concordia Department of Psychology and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development, “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.”

    This goes to show just how important the role of adults is in shaping how children respond to their example. With proper guidance, kids will learn to look up to their parents and other adults as a basis of proper behavior.

    Sources:

    December 7, 2011. Janice Wood. “Babies Learn Early Who They Can Trust” psychcentral.com 

    December 7, 2011. “Babies imitate behaviour of only reliable adults!” dnaindia.com

    December 11, 2011. Remy Melina. “Babies Picky About Who They Imitate” www.livescience.com 

    Photography by David Hanson Ong

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