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7 December 2011
Babies can identify flakey adults

Babies can tell the difference between credible and un-credible sources; according to behavioral scientists at Concordia University who say that most babies won't follow along if they have been previously tricked by an adult. The findings, appearing in Infant Behavior and Development, add to a growing body of research from the same laboratory that suggests that infants are adept at detecting who's reliable and who is not.

For the study, a group of 60 infants, aged 13-16 months, were divided in two groups; with reliable or unreliable testers. In a first task, the researchers looked inside a container, while expressing excitement, and infants were invited to discover whether the box actually contained a toy or was empty. This task was designed to show the experimenter's credibility or lack thereof.

In a second task, the same experimenter used her forehead instead of her hands to turn on a push-on light. The experimenter then observed whether infants would follow suit. The result? Only 34 percent of the infants whose testers were unreliable followed this odd task. By contrast, 61 percent of infants in the reliable group imitated the irrational behavior.

"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," observed Concordia researcher Diane Poulin-Dubois. "Specifically, infants choose not to learn from someone who they perceive as unreliable."

The study contends that the results show 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," noted co-researcher Ivy Brooker.

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Source: Concordia University

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