The researchers designed a non-verbal experiment using puppet characters.

The experiment created scenarios among the puppets to test transitive inference, or the ability to deduce which character should dominate another character, even when the babies had not seen the two characters directly interact with one another.

A majority of the babies in the experiment, who were of ages 10 to 13 months, showed a pattern consistent with transitive inference.

"Everybody knows that babies learn rapidly, like little sponges that soak in incredible amounts of knowledge," Lourenco stated.

"This findings tell us about how humans learn. If you can reason deductively, you can make generalizations without having to experience the world directly. This ability could be a crucial tool for making sense of the social relationships around us, and perhaps complex non-social interactions," Lourenco explained.

The researchers found that the majority of the babies had shown unexpected dominance behaviours, or 23 out of 32 were engaging in transitive inference when they gazed at scenarios of unexpected behaviour by the puppets, compared to other scenarios.

The findings were published in the journal of Developmental Science.


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