Scientific News

Do infants like being imitated?

The desire to imitate is generally considered a major driver of social cognition in infants. Nevertheless, this “finding” has been largely theoretical until now. The current study from Lund University in Sweden aimed to provide concrete evidence of the effects of imitation on social interaction between babies and adults. Do babies like being imitated?

For babies, the theoretical benefits of being imitated has been widely touted. Imitation by adults encourages the development of socio-cognitive skills, including self-awareness, theory of mind (understanding the intentions and mental states of others) and the acquisition of cultural norms. But as the authors of this study ...

Are babies altruistic?

We define altruistic behavior as helping others even when it comes at a cost to ourselves. And sometimes this may mean giving up food! Researchers at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington (I-LABS, Seattle) developed an experimental protocol to find out if toddlers were willing to sacrifice part of their snack for the benefit of a stranger. It was an opportunity to see if the spirit of giving begins at a very young age…

For the moment, only humans have been shown to offer food to someone in need even when the giver himself may need it. Of course, in many circumstances, bonobos will share food, but they will not spontaneously give a valuable ...

If we know the right choice, why don’t we always make it?

On your way home from work you hit a traffic jam caused by a broken down truck. You decide to take a different route that turns out to be faster and you're home even earlier than usual! Will you take the new route the next day even though your usual route is better most of the time? A study conducted at the University of Ohio looked at our decision-making when it comes to choosing between what worked yesterday and what normally works best. What if your most recent experiences were preventing you from making good decisions?

As Ian Krajbich, one of the study’s co-authors explains, the study was designed to explore “this tension between doing what you should do, at least from ...

Can a person's empathy by predicted?

“Empathy is a cornerstone of mental health and well-being. It promotes social and cooperative behavior through our concern for others. It also helps us to infer and predict the internal feelings, behavior and intentions of others.” This is how empathy is defined by Dr. Marco Iacoboni. With his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Iacoboni is seeking to determine whether it's possible to detect and predict empathy in the brain.

Empathy is based in part on the brain’s ability to reflexively and unconsciously process the experiences of others, whether observed or inferred, the same way we do for ourselves; a phenomenon known as “neural ...

Do parrots control probability?

Keee-aa! This is the powerful call of the nestor kea or simply the “kea,” a species of mountain parrot (the only one in the world) that lives in New Zealand. This bird has recently surprised scientists by demonstrating its remarkable skills in the field of probability. Indeed, two researcher from the University of Auckland (New Zealand) have shed light on the kea's ability to make complex judgments based on statistical, physical, and social information.

Doctoral student Amalia Bastos and Professor Alex Taylor (the authors of the study) developed a three-part protocol to demonstrate that the parrots are able to draw logical inferences from the different types of ...

Is power masculine or feminine according to young children?

Generally, power is more highly associated with men in social representations. But what do these representations look like in children? The present study aimed to identify the emergence of these representations in preschoolers around the world. Do young children attribute more power to men or women? Here’s what they found out.

The researchers at the Institute for Cognitive Sciences - Marc Jeannerod (CNRS/Claude Bernard University Lyon 1) in collaboration with the Universities of Oslo (Norway), Lausanne and Neuchatel (Switzerland) conducted three experiments.

In the first, they showed an image of two non-gendered figures to over 400 children (ages 4 to 6) in ...

Can the brains of adults and babies synchronize?

In a previous article (Can we comfort others by simply holding their hands?), we saw that the brainwaves of two individuals can synchronize simply because they are near each other, regardless of whether or not they are touching. This new study conducted by researchers from Princeton University shows that adults and babies could also be on the same wavelength.

As the authors of this research point out, most of the earlier studies on so-called “neural coupling” were done with adults (for example, when watching movies together). Elise A. Piazza (from the Princeton ...

Fake news: can we create our own misinformation?

Research on misinformation is beginning to multiply, especially when it comes to the mechanisms of thought that explain why we are all potential victims of fake news. A recent study shows that, in addition to external sources (partisan media, for example), there’s also a more surprising source of misinformation: ourselves. Depending on our biases, our memory can sometimes play tricks on us…

Jason C. Coronel (a professor of communications at Ohio State University), Shannon Poulsen, and Matthew Sweitzer (all doctoral students at Ohio State) carried out a two-part study in order to shed light on the role of digital facts in misinformation and how it is spread.

In the ...

Can dogs encourage kids to read?

“Our study focused on whether a child would be motivated to continue reading longer and persevere through moderately challenging passages when they are accompanied by a dog.” This unusual line of research conducted by two Canadian academics led to an article in Anthrozoös, a multidisciplinary review of human-animal interactions. The research offers an opportunity to learn more about the impact of therapy dogs. Could they help motivate reading in children?

Camille Xinmei Rousseau (a doctoral student at British Columbia Okanagan, Canada) and Christine Yvette Tardif-Williams (Professor at Brock University Saint Catharines, Canada) investigated whether dogs could ...

Can board games help preserve cognitive function?

While there’s loads of research on the (positive and negative) effects of video games on the brain, far fewer studies have been conducted on the possible effects of board games on cognition. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, in the United Kingdom, posited that playing cards, chess, or bingo could help maintain cognitive abilities. Let’s take a look at this research carried out on participants who were only 11 years old when the research began, and who are now 79!

Among the various types of interventions that could potentially promote “successful cognitive aging,” scientists have already shown that enjoyable activities, like cards, crosswords, and sudoku can have ...

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