Even Toddlers Succumb to Peer Pressure, Study Says

THURSDAY April 12, 2012 -- Toddlers are more likely to pick up a behavior if they see most other toddlers doing it, a new study shows.

Researchers found that 2-year-olds were more likely to copy an action when they saw it repeated by three other toddlers than if they saw an action repeated by just one other toddler.

The findings appear online April 12 in the journal Current Biology.

"I think few people would have expected to find that 2-year-olds are already influenced by the majority," study author Daniel Haun, of the Max Planck Institutes for Evolutionary Anthropology and Psycholinguistics in Germany and the Netherlands. "Parents and teachers should be aware of these dynamics in children's peer interactions," Haun said in a journal news release.

The study also found that chimpanzees tend to follow the crowd, but orangutans do not. This suggests that humans and chimps have shared strategies for social learning, the researchers said.

While parents may be dismayed to learn that their toddlers are already sensitive to peer pressure, this type of behavior has advantages in terms of evolution.

"The tendency to acquire the behaviors of the majority has been posited as key to the transmission of relatively safe, reliable and productive behavioral strategies," Haun noted.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about toddler growth and development.

Posted: April 2012


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