Babies and young children interact with the world in their own unique way.
A new study out of MIT discovered that babies can even identify whether two people have a strong relationship; if those two people kiss or share food and as a result, share saliva.
To find out how babies can identify close relationships, the researchers observed toddlers between the ages of 16.5 – 18.5 months and babies between 8.5 – 10 months. The children watched interactions between a human actor and a puppet and were shown two different scenarios. The puppet shared food with one of the actors in the first scenario and then tossed a ball back and forth with another actor in the second scenario. After watching these two scenarios, the babies then watched as the puppet sat between the two actors and exhibited signs of distress.
- The researches theorized that when the puppet showed signs of distress the child would look at the person that they expected to be of help.
- The children were more likely to look at the actor who shared food with the puppet, not the toy.
- In a second experiment, the children where shown a scenario where an actor put a finger in their mouth and then the puppet’s mouth. They were shown a second scenario where the actor put their finger on their forehead and then on the puppet’s forehead. Once again, the child looked at the puppet whom the actor had shared saliva with when there were signs of distress.
It may seem kind of gross at first glance, but the reality is that people in close relationships are more apt to share saliva whether it is through kissing, sharing food, sharing a straw etc.
So the findings suggest that babies can use this cue to figure out who around them is most likely to offer help and be someone that they could depend on for survival.