Department of Political Science

The Developmental Origins of Social Hierarchy: How infants and young children mentally represent and respond to power and status

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The learnability problem of social life suggests that innate mental representations and motives to navigate adaptive relationships have evolved. Like other species, preverbal human infants form dominance hierarchies where some systematically supplant others in zero-sum conflict, and use the formidability cues of body and coalition size, as well as previous win-lose history, to predict who will prevail. Like other primates, human toddlers also seek to affiliate with allies of high rank, but unlike bonobos they pay unique attention whether others voluntarily defer to their precedence, reflecting the importance of consensual authority in cooperative human society. However, young children appear not to readily infer authority from benevolence, and expectations for inequality correlate with unwillingness to share resources even among infants.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychology
Pages (from-to)201-208
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

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