Once infants are tricked they cannot be tricked again given their ability to tell the difference between credible and un-credible sources. Such distinguishing makes them imitate the behaviour of only those adults who they consider to be reliable, suggests a new study.
Simply put, most babies won't follow along if they have been previously fooled by an adult.
"Like older children, infants keep track of an individual's history of being accurate or inaccurate and use this information to guide their subsequent learning," said senior researcher Diane Poulin-Dubois, a professor in the Concordia Department of Psychology and member of the Centre for Research in Human Development.
"Specifically, infants choose not to learn from someone who they perceive as unreliable."
A group of 60 infants, aged 13 to 16 months, were tested as part of this study. Babies were divided in two groups; with reliable or unreliable testers.
In a first task, experimenters looked inside a container, while expressing excitement, and infants were invited to discover whether the box actually contained a toy or was empty. This task was designed to show the experimenter's credibility or lack thereof.
In a second imitation task, the same experimenter used her forehead instead of her hands to turn on a push-on light. The experimenter then observed whether infants would follow suit. The outcome stated that only 34 per cent of infants whose testers were unreliable followed this odd task.
By contrast, 61 per cent of infants in the reliable group imitated the irrational behaviour.
"This shows infants will imitate behaviour from a reliable adult," said second author Ivy Brooker.
"In contrast, the same behaviour performed by an unreliable adult is interpreted as irrational or inefficient, therefore not worth imitating."
These results add to a growing body of research from the same laboratory that suggests that even infants are adept at detecting who's reliable and who is not.
The study has been published in the journal Infant Behavior and Development.