Your Baby Knows When You're Being Fake, According To Research

Photo: Nicoleta Ionescu | Shutterstock
upset baby with father

So, perhaps you are having a little family drama and things are sort of tense, but you're in front of a baby. If you put on a fake smile, maybe put in a little passive-aggressive jab in here or there can the baby tell? Most people would assume not, that's why we fake it. But science says we have it all wrong and babies can tell when something weird is going on.

The Association of Psychological Science published a study that a 13-month-old baby can understand complex social interactions.

Your baby knows when you're being fake, according to research.

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Researchers gathered 48 infants that were around the age of 1. They then put on a puppet show with three characters. Puppets A and B are friends, but when puppet C is introduced it purposely knocks down B when A isn't looking. In the second situation, puppet B gets its revenge by mowing down C when A isn't present. In the third act, puppet C was accidentally knocked down as A watched.

Two of the scenarios had two puppets being mean to each other while the third one had someone knocked down by accident. You may assume that one-year-olds wouldn't be able to tell the difference between each scenario, but researchers found that they could tell the difference between people who are being shady and those who aren't.

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Of course, they didn't get this feedback from getting these 1-year-olds to take a survey. Instead, they determined if the child could tell a difference by the amount of attention that they gave. If they find a situation normal or boring they will look away rather quickly. If they find that something weird is going on, on the other hand, the babies will continue watching to see how things play out.

So, if A was a witness to the hit, the infants seemed to expect that A would shun B. They spent more time looking at the puppets when A was “friendly” with B after the hit (the researchers did this by having them wiggling and swaying together) than when A ignored B, suggesting that the friendly interaction was an unexpected turn of events.

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So, does this mean that babies care if someone is being mistreated?

"This to us indicates infants have strong feelings about how people should deal with a character who hits others: even his or her acquaintance or 'friend' should do something about it," says graduate student You-Jung Choi and senior co-author Yuyan Luo of the study.

So the next time you're around someone you don't particularly like and a baby, remember that little ones can tell when you're not really playing nice.

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Nicole Weaver is a senior writer for Showbiz Cheat Sheet whose work has been featured in New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, and more.