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Toddlers choose winners who win fairly, UCI study finds

September 7, 2018
Toddlers choose winners who win fairly, UCI study finds

Everybody loves a winner, but when in comes to toddlers, they also care about how they win, according to a new study from University of California, Irvine cognitive science researchers. In a series of experiments involving toddlers aged 21 to 31 months, Ashley Thomas, ’18 psychology Ph.D., and Barbara Sarnecka, associate professor of cognitive sciences, showed a right-of-way conflict between two puppets. Both wanted to cross the stage, but each was blocking the other’s path. In the first experiment, one puppet eventually deferred to the other and moved out of the way, allowing the other puppet to “win.” Of the 23 toddlers, 20 reached for the puppet that had won the conflict. In another experiment, a different group of toddlers watched the same scene, but in this instance, one puppet won by force, knocking the other puppet out of the way. In this case, the toddlers had the opposite preference; 18 out of 22 reached for the puppet that got knocked down. “Human toddlers prefer winners,” Thomas said, “but they seem to avoid bullies.” The study is published in the online issue of the journal Nature Human Behaviour.