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Baby doesn't like you. I don't like you either.
May 16, 2013 7:47 AM   Subscribe

UBC psych prof Dr. J. Kiley Hamlin: "Across two experiments with combined samples of more than 200 infant participants, we found that 9- and 14-month-old infants prefer individuals who treat similar others well and treat dissimilar others poorly." Popularization at The Atlantic. Full paper (Psychological Science, paywall). Researcher profile.
posted by seanmpuckett (17 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's worth noting at the outset that by "similar" they mean, in this experiment, "behaviorally similar." It's not, in other words, a study about how babies are natural born racists.
posted by yoink at 7:54 AM on May 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


The Atlantic article quoted the study as saying "there was no effect of puppet color." They do, however, prefer puppets who harm other puppets that are shown having different food preferences. This suggests that babies aren't puppet racist, but may be puppet foodie-ist.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:06 AM on May 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


Well then, I guess Baby will just have to have a ham sandwich instead.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:28 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The author of the Atlantic piece sums it up nicely: "... as much as one could potentially make of this, it's babies watching puppets eat graham crackers."

You can't convince me that most nine-month-olds have the cognitive ability to process concepts as complex as siding with one party over a shared love of graham crackers.

Where's the control? I hope they tested this on dogs, who are about as smart as babies.

[GRAD STUDENT is waving two PUPPETS in front of sitting LABRADOR RETRIEVER]

[STUDENT waves PUPPET ONE on right hand and speaks in a high-pitched voice]

Puppet One: Mmm! I love cat poop!

[STUDENT waves PUPPET TWO on left hand and replies in a gravelly voice]

Puppet Two: I myself am not particularly fond of cat poop and prefer kitchen garbage!

Puppet One: Then you, sir, are my mortal enemy and I am obligated to destroy you.

Puppet Two: Fuck you!

[STUDENT violently strikes PUPPET TWO with PUPPET ONE]

Puppet Two: Lo, I am but finished. Please spare my life, merciful lover of cat poop!

Puppet One: I shall, but you must remember this lesson!

[STUDENT waves both puppets in LABRADOR's face and singas "taa-daah!"]

[LABRADOR languidly sniffs PUPPET ONE and then drops down to enthusiastically lick a spot on the floor tiles]

Student: Too bad Dr. Von Research is out on his boat. He's going to be so thrilled when he watches the tape!
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:45 AM on May 16, 2013 [18 favorites]


Where's the control?

I'm not sure which part of the experiment you think lacked a control. Obviously they varied the puppet combinations/types to rule out that the kids were systematically preferring one puppet to another. Clearly one needs to be careful about what conclusions you draw from this research, but it doesn't seem self-evident, either, that this is simply meaningless. The differences between which dolls the babies preferred are stark. If it wasn't because of the "similar food tastes/opposite food tastes" distinction you need a good argument to explain what it was about. It's a statistically improbable outcome if the kids really were just randomly grabbing at the dolls.
posted by yoink at 9:13 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would enjoy a companion study done with similar rigor and sample size testing whether babies prefer shitting in a toilet or shitting in their pants. They should then write an exactly parallel paper, changing only what is necessary. Their current paper is titled "Not Like Me = Bad" — the new paper would be titled "Clean Pants = Bad", etc., etc..
posted by benito.strauss at 9:25 AM on May 16, 2013


I would enjoy a companion study done with similar rigor and sample size testing whether babies prefer shitting in a toilet or shitting in their pants. They should then write an exactly parallel paper, changing only what is necessary. Their current paper is titled "Not Like Me = Bad" — the new paper would be titled "Clean Pants = Bad", etc., etc..

How are these things even remotely parallel?
posted by yoink at 9:29 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies — "God damn it, you've got to be kind."
posted by miyabo at 9:59 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just because you can't make the results of a study fit a worldview or a just-so story doesn't mean the results are invalid. They could be, and often are, just weird.
posted by gilrain at 10:00 AM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is kind of how I feel about people who don't like coffee and I'm 36. Seems legit to me.
posted by fshgrl at 10:14 AM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Babies also prefer puppets who pistol whip you for liking your favorite band. In a related study, I love babies.
posted by The Riker Who Mounts the World at 11:10 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who knows what the babies were thinking. Maybe the graham crackers made crumbs when the puppet ate them and FUNNY!
posted by third rail at 11:43 AM on May 16, 2013


Also, were these organic local green beans? Because everyone knows babies don't like hipsters.
posted by third rail at 11:48 AM on May 16, 2013


BABBY IS JUDGING YOU.
posted by emjaybee at 12:45 PM on May 16, 2013


Pretext: There was another study [longer NYT article] from 2010 by two of the authors of this study, where babies "punish" "bad" puppets. It has been discussed here on the blue.
posted by KMB at 1:44 PM on May 16, 2013


Who knows what the babies were thinking. Maybe the graham crackers made crumbs when the puppet ate them and FUNNY!

Except that babies who preferred the beans liked to see the graham cracker eating dolls being punished.
posted by yoink at 6:01 PM on May 16, 2013


How many star systems are these babies wanted in?
posted by Mezentian at 8:48 AM on May 17, 2013


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