Babies with prejudice?

Schadenfreude starts early.



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In a study of 200 nine- to fourteen-month-olds, Yale psychologist Karen Wynn and her colleagues uncovered something unsettling. They report online in Psychological Science that in their study, in which babies reacted to puppets, the babies actively disliked puppets with tastes different from their own. They even liked villains who treated those puppets badly. The study centered on food choices: graham crackers versus green beans. Babies who preferred graham crackers actually showed a liking for a dog puppet that was mean to a puppet that preferred green beans. (For graham cracker–loving puppets, it was the reverse.) But Wynn hastens to say that infants are not potential bullies. “Difference from oneself leads even babies to dislike someone, and a similarity to oneself draws them to feel positively towards someone,” she says. “But since all people share both similarities and differences, our finding suggests not that disliking those who are different in some way is inevitable, but rather that there is lots of room for social and cultural influence.”

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