Babies know the score.

Everyone knows that people who exhibit supernatural abilities are considered better than others. Even though a lot of comic books and movies depict superhumans as deeply flawed and downright despicable people, you can’t help but show deference to someone who can shoot eye lasers or punch your head clean off your shoulders.

Now, thanks to a study conducted by Osaka University, Kochi University of Technology, and Kyushu University, we know that this isn’t merely a social construct, but an innate human quality.

In the study, 96 infants aged 12 to 16 months were observed while viewing animated characters competing against each other. Two of the characters had no special abilities but one had the power of levitation and the other teleportation. In half the videos the super-powered characters won and in the other half they lost to the normal ones.

▼ For example, in this diagram we created, which is similar to the one used in the experiment, both characters are trying to get the green prize. The blue character can fly across the valley, but the red one must travel along the bottom

Since 12-month-old babies usually can’t say much, researchers used the principle of “expectancy violation” in which even babies react to something that is unexpected from the normal world as they understand it. In the videos where the super characters won the contest, kids quickly tuned out because to them that was no big deal. Conversely, when the normal characters defeated the paranormal ones, the babies were significantly more interested in what was going on.

The results strongly suggest that babies instantly recognize those with supernatural abilities as dominant to ordinary people. It would also suggest that Predator 2 is the most entertaining movie for infants ever made.

▼ An especially sweaty Danny Glover taking out a predator has got to be the biggest upset of its kind

However, most readers of the news weren’t overly surprised to learn than even babies know that someone who can fly is superior.

“Most adults aren’t much different either.”
“I still like to see normal people defeat super humans. Does that make me a child?”
“In other words, babies are stupid. Thanks.”
“It’s like the animal instinct to determine which one is the leader of the pack.”
“I guess kids get into heroes naturally, not just because of the media.”

Nevertheless, the researchers believe that the findings may help shed light on how cult leaders can win over followers. By appearing to perform supernatural feats, it taps into some sort of innate psychological basis of human beings.

It also means that if you want to get kids to respect you, you had better start brushing up on your magic tricks. I’m already working on amassing a baby army with my “got your nose” and “my thumb came off” miracles.

Source: Asahi Shimbun, My Game News Flash
Top image: Pakutaso
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