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Representation of stable social dominance relations by human infants

Mascaro, O. and Csibra, Gergely (2012) Representation of stable social dominance relations by human infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109 (18), pp. 6862-6867. ISSN 0027-8424.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1113194109

Abstract

What are the origins of humans’ capacity to represent social rela- tions? We approached this question by studying human infants’ understanding of social dominance as a stable relation. We pre- sented infants with interactions between animated agents in con- flict situations. Studies 1 and 2 targeted expectations of stability of social dominance. They revealed that 15-mo-olds (and, to a lesser extent, 12-mo-olds) expect an asymmetric relationship between two agents to remain stable from one conflict to another. To do so, infants need to infer that one of the agents (the dominant) will consistently prevail when her goals conflict with those of the other (the subordinate). Study 3 and 4 targeted the format of infants’ representation of social dominance. In these studies, we found that 12- and 15-mo-olds did not extend their expectations of dominance to unobserved relationships, even when they could have been established by transitive inference. These results sug- gest that infants’ expectation of stability originates from their representation of social dominance as a relationship between two agents rather than as an individual property. Infants’ demon- strated understanding of social dominance reflects the cognitive underpinning of humans’ capacity to represent social relations, which may be evolutionarily ancient, and may be shared with nonhuman species.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Science > Psychological Sciences
Depositing User: Gergely Csibra
Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2012 17:29
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2013 09:57
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/5390

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