Monday, September 02, 2019

Infants expect leaders to right wrongs

From Stavans and Baillargeon:
Anthropological and psychological research on direct third-party punishment suggests that adults expect the leaders of social groups to intervene in within-group transgressions. Here, we explored the developmental roots of this expectation. In violation-of-expectation experiments, we asked whether 17-mo-old infants (n = 120) would expect a leader to intervene when observing a within-group fairness transgression but would hold no particular expectation for intervention when a nonleader observed the same transgression. Infants watched a group of 3 bear puppets who served as the protagonist, wrongdoer, and victim. The protagonist brought in 2 toys for the other bears to share, but the wrongdoer seized both toys, leaving none for the victim. The protagonist then either took 1 toy away from the wrongdoer and gave it to the victim (intervention event) or approached each bear in turn without redistributing a toy (nonintervention event). Across conditions, the protagonist was either a leader (leader condition) or a nonleader equal in rank to the other bears (nonleader condition); across experiments, leadership was marked by either behavioral or physical cues. In both experiments, infants in the leader condition looked significantly longer if shown the nonintervention as opposed to the intervention event, suggesting that they expected the leader to intervene and rectify the wrongdoer’s transgression. In contrast, infants in the nonleader condition looked equally at the events, suggesting that they held no particular expectation for intervention from the nonleader. By the second year of life, infants thus already ascribe unique responsibilities to leaders, including that of righting wrongs.

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