Babies happily share food even when hungry themselves - study

Researchers found infants will abandon nutrient-dense, natural foods for the sake of giving them to a stranger.
Researchers found infants will abandon nutrient-dense, natural foods for the sake of giving them to a stranger. Photo credit: Getty.

Babies will happily share their food, even with strangers and even when they're hungry themselves, a new study has found. 

The research conducted by the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences looked at nearly 100 infants.

Researchers conducted a non-verbal test where 9-month-old babies repeatedly and spontaneously transferred natural food to a stranger, even when they themselves were hungry.

In the experiment, two groups of random infants witnessed a researcher "accidentally" drop a variety of fruits on to a tray.

The researcher tried to reach his hand out to the fruit, signalling they were 'begging' for it. 

The study found that 58.33 percent of one group, called the 'begging experimenter group', gave the researcher the fruit while in a 'non-begging experimenter group', only 4.17 percent of infants attempted to help the researcher.

The average time of reaction for the babies was 3.17 seconds.

According to researchers, this proves humans as infants will abandon nutrient-dense, natural foods for the sake of giving them to a stranger.

The researcher also conducted the same experiment when the children were hungry and results found that 37 percent of the babies gave the fruit to the researcher.

"The infants in this second study looked longingly at the fruit, and then they gave it away," Andrew Meltzoff, the co-director of I-LABS, said in a press release. 

"We think altruism is important to study because it is one of the most distinctive aspects of being human. It is an important part of the moral fabric of society," added Rodolfo Cortes Barragan, researcher and lead author of the study.

It is not clear that the infants interpreted the fruits as valuable for themselves.

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