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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Dec 13;108(50):19931-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1110306108. Epub 2011 Nov 28.

How infants and toddlers react to antisocial others.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4.


Although adults generally prefer helpful behaviors and those who perform them, there are situations (in particular, when the target of an action is disliked) in which overt antisocial acts are seen as appropriate, and those who perform them are viewed positively. The current studies explore the developmental origins of this capacity for selective social evaluation. We find that although 5-mo-old infants uniformly prefer individuals who act positively toward others regardless of the status of the target, 8-mo-old infants selectively prefer characters who act positively toward prosocial individuals and characters who act negatively toward antisocial individuals. Additionally, young toddlers direct positive behaviors toward prosocial others and negative behaviors toward antisocial others. These findings constitute evidence that the nuanced social judgments and actions readily observable in human adults have their foundations in early developing cognitive mechanisms.

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