Children as young as 15 months watch other people's social interactions and detect anger. They use this emotional information to behave in a certain way to avoid anger in adults, reveals a new study.
The study by researchers at the University of Washington suggests that younger toddlers are capable of using multiple cues from emotions and vision to understand the motivations of the people around them.
Lead author of the study Betty Repacholi said that at 15 months of age, children are trying to understand their social world and how people will react and in this study they found that toddlers who aren't yet speaking can use visual and social cues to understand other people - that's sophisticated cognitive skills for 15-month-olds.
The findings also linked the toddlers' impulsive tendencies with their tendency to ignore other people's anger, suggesting an early indicator for children who may become less willing to abide by rules.
The study didn't factor in how much previous conflict children had seen at home or elsewhere, such as arguing parents or violent television shows. But Repacholi speculated that an emotionally charged home environment could make some children desensitized to anger, or others could become hypersensitive to it and overreact.
The study was published in the journal Cognitive Development.