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Proof: Babies Can Be Jerks

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ThinkStock

By Lauren Hansen

It's human nature to want to hang out with people you have things in common with. ("You like chocolate-peanut-butter ice cream? So do I! Let's eat chocolate-peanut-butter ice cream together!") On the one hand, this trait is a positive one, since it helps people form social bonds. On the other, those shared interests can, at the very least, lead to the formation of cliques that exclude others for their differences. Worse yet, groups may reach the point at which they applaud when harm comes to outsiders — just think of the mean girls in high school who revel in others' pain. Researchers already knew, thanks to previous studies, that babies, like adults, had the propensity to like babies similar to them, gravitating toward those with the same taste in food or toys. But scientists wanted to examine whether the dark side of social identification was prevalent in babies as well. Do the roots of malevolent social biases take hold in infancy?

How it was tested

 
Researchers recruited 9- and- 14-month-old babies for two separate studies. First, the infants' preference for green beans or graham crackers was established. Then the babies watched a series of puppet shows that featured a graham cracker-liking puppet and a green bean-liking puppet alternately being helped and harmed by other puppets. Finally, the babies chose between the helper puppet or the harming puppet.

The outcome

 
With combined samples of more than 200 infant participants, researchers found that both age groups overwhelmingly preferred the character that helped the puppet similar to them, over the character that harmed the similar puppet. But, surprisingly, when it came to the puppets that were dissimilar to the infants, the majority of babies in both age groups opted for the character that harmed them. In fact, their preference for the harming character, in the dissimilar scenario, was just as strong as it was for the helping character in the similar scenario. When the study was conducted again, this time with the addition of a neutral puppet, researchers found that the older group responded even more robustly to the harmer puppet.

Why this might be

 
The fact that babies act this way even before they can speak suggests that social biases "are based in part on basic aspects of human social evaluation," rather than learned through interacting with others. In other words, our social biases might be more nature than nurture.

What the experts say

 
The results are disheartening, says Karen Wynn, senior author of the study and professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University. "I was surprised, and my liberal bleeding heart sunk like a stone when we found them actually choosing, really robustly, the puppet who punishes." Wynn says there's need for more research, however. For one, the reasons behind the babies' choices are still unknown. Also, the babies might react differently if a parent or loved one cares for the dissimilar puppet.

But in the meantime, we'll leave you with this disheartening thought: Babies are kind of evil.

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No One Can Figure Out This Second Grade Math Problem
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iStock

Angie Werner got a lot more than she bargained for on January 24, when she sat down to help her 8-year-old daughter, Ayla, with her math homework. As Pop Sugar reports, the confusion began when they got to the following word problem:

“There are 49 dogs signed up to compete in the dog show. There are 36 more small dogs than large dogs signed up to compete. How many small dogs are signed up to compete?”

Many people misread the problem and thought it was a trick question: if there are 36 more small dogs and the question is how many small dogs are competing, then maybe the answer is 36?

Wrong!

Frustrated by the confusing problem, Angie took to a private Facebook group to ask fellow moms to weigh in on the question, which led to even more confusion, including whether medium-sized dogs should somehow be accounted for. (No, they shouldn’t.) Another mom chimed in with an answer that she thought settled the debate:

"Y'all. A mom above figured it out. We were all wrong. If there is a total of 49 dogs and 36 of them are small dogs then there are 13 large dogs. That means 36 small dogs subtracted by 13 large dogs then there are 23 more small dogs than large dogs. 36-13=23. BOOM!!! WOW! Anyone saying there's half and medium dogs tho just no!"

It was a nice try, but incorrect. A few others came up with 42.5 dogs as the answer, with one woman explaining her method as follows: "49-36=13. 13/2=6.5. 36+6.5=42.5. That's how I did it in my head. Is that the right way to do it? Lol I haven't done math like this since I was in school!"

Though commenters understandably took issue with the .5 part of the answer—an 8-year-old is expected to calculate for a half-dog? What kind of dog show is this?—when Ayla’s teacher heard about the growing debate, she chimed in to confirm that 42.5 is indeed the answer, but that the blame in the confusion rested with the school. "The district worded it wrong,” said Angie. “The answer would be 42.5, though, if done at an age appropriate grade."

Want to try another internet-baffling riddle?


Here's the answer.

[h/t: Pop Sugar]

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Open Einstein
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You Can Now Print 3D Replicas of Einstein's Childhood Toys
Open Einstein
Open Einstein

For children, playtime is an essential part of cognitive development. Now, you can give them toys that befit their genius: 3D replicas of the ones that Albert Einstein himself played with.

The LEGO Foundation, Unilever, and IKEA have launched Open Einstein, a site where you can download a 3D printing kit that allows you to make exact replicas of the wooden blocks the Nobel Prize-winning physicist played with during his childhood in Germany. "Play empowers children to create and learn for the rest of their lives," the site declares. "It is a fundamental right for all children."

The 3D printing kit provides designs for 36 toy blocks of various sizes and shapes. Einstein's wooden boxes of blocks, made by the German company Anker-Steinbaukasten, are currently held by a collector named Seth Kaller. (According to his website, you can buy them if you have $160,000 on hand.)

A dark image labeled 'Open Einstein' with wooden blocks in the background
Open Einstein

The 3D printing kit contains model instructions for only a fraction of the 160 blocks in the original set, which Einstein reportedly used throughout his childhood to erect complex structures at home. He wasn't the only famous fan of the toys: Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, and other notable creatives played with the same blocks.

If you're looking for a particularly erudite toy to nurture your child's mind, blocks—whether Einstein-related or not—are a pretty good choice. The National Association for the Education of Young Children says that playing with blocks can enhance problem-solving skills, fine-tune motor skills, and boost creativity.

Your child may never come up with world-changing scientific theories, but if nothing else, hopefully the set will impart some of the genius's sense of creativity. Or at least his delightful playfulness.

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