You know, when they’re not giggling and being joyful and “discovering the world around them” in a really adorable way. Not even when they’re screaming, constantly, or shitting all over themselves (or all over you)! Mainly, it’s when they are actively wishing ill upon anyone who is in some way “not like them.”
Per a new study, babies were given a choice between green beans and Graham Crackers as a favorite snack (what adult, let alone baby, would choose beans here?), then watched a video of various puppets who either shared or did not share their preference. Long story short, babies seemed to really like characters who somehow harmed puppets with different preferences than theirs. Like, as much as they liked characters who seemed nice and were deemed to be similar to them.
“The fact that infants show these social biases before they can even speak suggests that the biases aren’t solely the result of experiencing a divided social world, but are based in part on basic aspects of human social evaluation,” explained one of the researchers involved. “Infants might experience something like schadenfreude at the suffering of an individual they dislike. Or perhaps they recognize the alliances that are implied by social interactions, identifying an ‘enemy of their enemy’ (i.e., the harmer of a dissimilar puppet) as their friend.”
So, we could take this as evidence that humans are inevitably terrible and even the best intentioned parenting means nothing at all. Or, as the study recommends, take this as a sign of the “importance of socialization practices that recognize just how basic these social biases might be and confront them head-on.” Up to you, I guess.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.