According to babies, size means power. Or does it?

by Lara on February 7, 2011

In a blog post that got me thinking in about 100 different directions, Sophia Dembling talks about recent research showing that even infants under one year of age may understand the role that size plays in social dominance. But the fun part of the post (other than the mental image of The Baby Coup) is her musings about how infants learn about the relations between size and power…and how important some of those messages might be.

What do we teach our babies about power when we respond to them, when we meet their needs — or when we don’t? Does that sense of power — that mix of personal agency (I can make things happen!) and security — facilitate the development of other, more selfless emotions, like empathy, or compassion? And what happens when infants and children never get to experience that kind of power?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Aron Broadnax April 19, 2011 at 9:31 pm

It makes sense that babies would relate size to power because their very first relationships are between themselves and their parents. In this case, the parent are much bigger than the baby, and wield all the power, while the baby is completely dependent on the parents. This could be the first reason babies come to relate size and power. It is interesting that this carries over into relationships between babies as well, at such a young age.


Ethan Johnson May 6, 2011 at 9:51 am

It is sensible to say that size and power are related. When babies are born, they are totally dependent on their parents. This means that parents have absolute power. And when parents are caring and compassionate, babies learn that anyone who has power should also be compassionate. This could lead them later in life to be more understanding with others when they hold powerful positions in the workplace.
–Ethan Johnson


whee8953 May 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm

This is interesting that babies so young already start to have an understanding of size and power. This is a cool piece of evidence showing how cognitive and social development starts so early, even from birth! The babies realize from early on that their parents are bigger and hold all the power in their relationship, however show care and compassion for the smaller, weaker baby whenever they need something and respond to them. The babies recognize who holds the power, but maybe power can be shared!


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