We think of large as dominant. If it’s big, it’s alpha. And this attitude
seems learned. Because over and over, we see big crushing small.
But new research suggests we are born with this bias toward big.
Scientists had infants—between 10 and 16 months—watch videos
of a large and small box with eyes and a mouth bouncing across a
stage towards each other. Each time the boxes came face to face,
the small box would either move aside to let the large box pass, or
the larger one would allow the smaller box to pass.
Infants tend to stare longer at events that surprise them compared
with what they expect. And when the smaller box caved in to the
larger box the babies’ gaze lingered for about 12 seconds. But when
the larger box allowed the small one to pass by, their gaze lasted
about two-thirds longer. The study appears in the journal Science.
Past studies have shown that babies are also able to remember
whether certain people have helped or hindered others. In light of
the new work, if a baby sees a big man act like a gentleman, it might
make a longlasting impression.