Home LATEST NEWS For babies, exchanging saliva is proof of closeness

For babies, exchanging saliva is proof of closeness


According to a study published in the journal Sciencechildren are aware of this dynamic from an early age, and consider the exchange of saliva – with a kiss, sharing food or cleaning the corners of the lips – as proof of closeness between two individuals.

We know from a lot of research that babies are very sensitive to this social aspect of their world, but it was unknown if they really paid attention to different types of relationships.explains to AFP Ashley Thomas, researcher at Harvard and MIT.

With her colleagues, she wanted to know if children can distinguish relationships between relatives, calledthick)”,”text”:”intimate (thick)”}}’>intimate (thick) by the philosopher Avishai Margalit, unlike more distant friendly relations (so-called fine [thin]).

The team was inspired by experiments carried out with monkeys which, upon hearing a young in distress, turned to the mother expecting her to react.

She showed dozens of babies a video in which two young research assistants play with a puppet resembling those in the educational series 1 Sesame Street.

The first bites into an orange wedge, then feeds it to the puppet before eating the rest of the wedge. The second is content to play ball with the puppet.

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Both relationships are friendly, but only one can be considered by adults to be closeexplains Ashley Thomas.

Then the team showed the babies a clip in which the puppet cries, surrounded by the two young scientists. The babies turned first, and for longer, to the one who had exchanged saliva with the puppet, indicating that they saw her as closer.

The experiment was repeated with other babies from various ethnic groups, geographic backgrounds and socioeconomic backgrounds, and yielded similar results.

The behavior, but also the degree of connection

To make sure kids don’t view the spit-swapping puppet as naturally nicer, Ashley Thomas did another experiment with a different crying puppet. The babies didn’t look at the orange assistant first or longer, suggesting that this time it was her relationship with this new puppet that mattered.

Finally, in another video, an actress put a finger and twisted it in her mouth, then in that of the puppet. She then touched his forehead, then that of another puppet. When the actress pretended to be in distress and said Oh no!the babies first looked at the puppet with whom she had exchanged her saliva, indicating that they were isolating her as a proximity marker.

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These findings support scientific understanding of how children approach social relationships, such as the fact that children pay attention to people who are kind to othersexplains Ashley Thomas.

Babies don’t just pay attention to people’s behavior […]but also to their connections and the degree of theseshe says.

These hypotheses have already been proposed by anthropologists.

Understanding human-to-human relationships can especially help those who struggle to bond, such as people with autism.

They really want to make those connections, but they just lack the tools to do so.underlines the scientist.

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