When I look at old photos of my son from when he was a toddler, there appears to be one common theme: Everything he wore was somehow superhero-related. There was the black T-shirt with the big yellow bat signal, the royal blue sweatshirt emblazoned with Superman's iconic S, the Captain America Halloween costume he wore around the house for months "just because," and the winter hat and glove set done up in Spidey specific shades of red and blue. He even had a pair of Batman-themed Crocs.
Why the fascination (you know, besides all the cool costumes and killer gadgets)? According to new research out of Japan, babies are born with a sense of justice, which means their infatuation with superheroes may actually be innate. In fact, researchers discovered that pre-verbal infants as young as 6 months found themselves drawn to figures who protect the weak. Pretty amazing!
For the study, infants were shown animations of one geometric character chasing and bumping into another, as a third character watches from a distance. In one version, this third party character intervenes, and in another, it escapes in another direction. When the infants were then shown real-life replicas of these intervening and non-intervening characters, they were more likely to choose the intervener.
"Six-month-old infants are still in an early developmental stage, and most will not yet be able to talk," explained researcher Dr. David Butler. "Nevertheless they can already understand the power dynamics between these different characters, suggesting that recognizing heroism is perhaps an innate ability."
Pretty amazing. And get this: While the 6-month-olds didn't show a preference for intentional help over accidental help, the 10-month-olds did. Which is why the researchers next step is to track the path of this development. In seeking to understand how a more complex sense of justice is fostered over time, the team ultimately sees a possibility of contributing to solutions for serious social issues like bullying.
To the Batcave!