What is the right decision in this case? Living beings are often confronted with this question in their everyday lives - from insects to primates. Different strategies have been developed to deal with uncertainty and to react to the unclear situation as sensibly as possible. Man has developed this ability into one of his great strengths: as detailed as no other being, we communicate our insecurity to others in order to be able to make decisions on a broader information basis. Until now, it was unclear to what extent this ability is related to language development - whether it exists before or after this important developmental step. The researchers around Louise Goupila from the Université de recherche Paris Sciences et Lettres (or PSL Research University in Paris) have now taken a closer look at this question.
A total of 80 children aged 20 months and over looked after by their parents during the tests. In a playful atmosphere, it should be shown whether the little ones use body language to ask their caregivers to help them to avoid mistakes in the tasks. First, the experimenter placed a toy under one of two boxes in front of the children and their parents. Subsequently, the child should point to the box, under which the toy was - which the little ones usually performed sovereignly independently.
Questioning looks are directed at the parents
In the second part of the experiment, however, a curtain was now used: it was pulled in front of the children's field of vision and the experimenter hid the toy behind one of the two boxes behind it. The child thus lacked clear information about the hiding place - the parents, however, knew where the toy was. Then the curtain went up again and the little subject was again asked under which of the boxes the toy is well. In this unclear situation, the children often turned to their parents, the researchers report. Through eye contact, they nonverbally realized they were insecure and wanted help so they would not make the wrong decision, Goupila and her colleagues explain.
"The results show that children can register their own insecurity at this age and, if necessary, communicate non-verbally to take advantage of others' knowledge, " the researchers write. The astonishingly early development of this complex behavior again underlines the central importance of this ability for humans: collective knowledge makes us wise. display
Original work of the researchers:
- PNAS, doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1515129113