As sensitive babies grow up, they become selfless babies. This was established by a German and US study published on September 25 in the PLOS Biology journal by Tobias Grossmann of the University of Virginia, USA.
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A characteristic at the base of our society? Selfless behavior. For example, helping a person in difficulty that we do not know: an elderly person who has difficulty crossing the street, a mother with a stroller who is getting on a public transport, a child who has just made a tumble just in front of us. But this altruistic drive varies from person to person. There are those who would donate their kidneys to a complete stranger and those who are more prone to extremely antisocial if not psychopathic behavior.
Several studies conducted in the past have shown that those who are particularly sensitive to frightened faces have higher levels of prosocial behavior. And this can already be seen in preschool children as well.
Examining reactions to frightened faces at various stages of development, starting as early as childhood, therefore represents a unique opportunity to study and understand who has the potential to become an altruistic future.Read also: too sensitive children? 10 rules for parents
To reach this conclusion, Grossmann and colleagues tracked the eye movements of seven-month-old babies as they looked at frightened faces to see if they could predict gestures of altruism at 14 months.
Why exactly at 14 months? According to the researchers, this is the time when prosocial behaviors can be seen for the first time.
The analysis found that infantile altruistic behaviors were predictable when little ones paid particular attention to frightened faces. The same was not true for reactions to happy or sad faces.
According to the authors, the results suggest that from early development, individual variables of more or less altruistic behavior are linked to our reaction when we see others in unpleasant situations. In particular, the study confirms the opinion that social behaviors that favor cooperation are already present in the first months of life.
"This study has given new insights into the nature of human altruistic behavior by uncovering its mental and developmental origins," Grossmann said.
To learn more about PLOS Biology: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2005281
Grossmann T, Missana M, Krol KM (2022) The neurodevelopmental precursors of altruistic behavior in infancy. PLoS Biol 16(9): e2005281
- newborn 4-8 months