Thursday, June 7, 2018

Infants exhibited both an initial reluctance to touch and minimized subsequent physical contact with plants compared to other object types; further, they treated all plants as potentially dangerous, whether or not they possessed sharp-looking thorn

Every rose has its thorn: Infants' responses to pointed shapes in naturalistic contexts. Aleksandra Włodarczyk. Evolution and Human Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2018.06.001

Abstract: Plants produce dangerous chemical and physical defenses that have shaped the physiology and behavior of the herbivorous predators that feed on them. Here we explore the impact that these plant defenses may have had on humans by testing infants' responses to plants with and without sharp-looking thorns. To do this, we presented 8- to 18-month-olds with plants and control stimuli and measured their initial reaching behavior and subsequent object exploration behavior. Half of the stimuli had sharp-looking thorns or pointed parts while the other half did not. We found that infants exhibited both an initial reluctance to touch and minimized subsequent physical contact with plants compared to other object types. Further, infants treated all plants as potentially dangerous, whether or not they possessed sharp-looking thorns. These results reveal novel dimensions of a behavioral avoidance strategy in infancy that would mitigate potential harm from plants.

Keywords: Threat; Behavioral avoidance; Infancy; Cognitive development