Babies see trust in saliva

How can trust be measured between people? If you do not listen to conversations, body language and facial expressions remain: hugs, smiles, pats on the back, handshakes, etc. At the same time, signs of special closeness have something in common – saliva. Because only a very close person will we allow ourselves to be kissed, and only a very close person will be allowed to lick their own ice cream. (Of course, administrative ritual kisses are common in some places, but we do not take them into account now.)

Babies are fully aware of this criterion: for them, the closest relationships are held together by saliva. Psychologists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology set up an experiment with children aged 8-10 or 16-18 months, in which the children were shown a video with a baby doll and adults. In one video, a woman shared an orange with a doll, which she ate herself, in another video, another woman played ball with a doll, and finally, in a third video, the same doll was in the frame and both women were together, only the doll was now crying. One of the women was supposed to come up to the doll and comfort her. The one with whom the doll had a closer relationship should have consoled. From the look of the children, it was possible to understand from whom they expected such actions – and it turned out that the children looked more attentively at the woman who shared food with the doll, and not at the one who played ball.

In another experiment, everything was even more obvious. Now the video showed two dolls and one adult aunt: she put her finger in her mouth, and then put the same finger in the mouth of one of the dolls. With the other doll, everything was different: the woman touched her forehead, and then the forehead of the doll. Then it was the turn of the woman to portray suffering, and while she was suffering, the children looked mainly at the doll with which she exchanged saliva – it was this doll that was supposed to console her.

Children 5-7 years old also perceive the exchange of saliva as a sign of special closeness. They were shown adults biting off a piece of food and giving the rest to another, or using common dishes – and the children assumed that these people were most likely from the same family. If adults shared food, let’s say, not with their mouths, but with their hands (that is, they broke it into pieces) or played with the same toys, then the children had doubts – for them these people could just be friends, although the family version also remained . In general, as stated in the article in Science, for children, any social contact associated in one way or another with the transfer of saliva means a particularly close, especially trusting relationship.

True, here another contact with saliva comes to mind – when they spit at each other, and not metaphorically, but for real. It is rare to see this with your own eyes, but in any case, it is clear that spitting is the strongest insult. It would be interesting to know what children think about this.

Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by

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