Infants Give a Helping Hand, Even When You Look Like an Egg

A baby’s first year of life is all take and very little give. “Change my nappy!” “Feed me!” “Me! Me! Me!”

We all start out as very demanding, seemingly thankless creatures. But collectively we make up one of the most social species on Earth. As we develop, we all acquire the abilities needed to participate in a give-and-take society.

Young children start helping their parents – and other adults – soon after their first birthday. If an adult drops something – say a clothes peg when trying to hang up the washing – the chubby fingers of an observant toddler could come to the adult’s aid.

The desire to help probably stems from a burgeoning sense of sympathy towards another human being. But scientists are still trying to figure out what processes are occurring in our brains to explain helping behaviour, especially in young kids.

In a study published this week in PLoS ONE, Ben Kenward and Gustaf Gredebäck from Uppsala University in Sweden have ruled out one of the hottest contenders for the neural basis of helping: mirror neurons. Continue reading “Infants Give a Helping Hand, Even When You Look Like an Egg”