By James McConchie
My two- and four-year-old boys love to win, whether they are racing their bikes down the sidewalk or just finishing their snack. And this preoccupation with prestige does not seem to diminish with age: Society is full of social hierarchies in which those with high status, from world leaders and prize winners to athletes and movie stars, are the objects of our great admiration.
A recent study published in Nature Human Behaviour turned to toddlers to better understand this aspect of human nature. The researchers found that we seem to have an innate preference for high-ranking people—but only if those people aren’t hurtful toward others.
Researchers showed toddlers (aged 21 to 31 months) a scene where two puppets approached one another from opposite sides of a stage and one deferred by bowing to let the other pass. Asked which puppet they preferred, 18 of the 21 toddlers in the expe…