Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
AP

Spit Test: Saliva Alerts Babies to Close Relationships

  • Updated
  • 0
Spit Test: Saliva Alerts Babies to Close Relationships

FRIDAY, Jan. 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Sharing food and smooching are two ways babies can suss out whom they can depend on to take care for them, a new study suggests.

The tell-tale clue common to both is a surprising one: saliva.

“Babies don’t know in advance which relationships are the close and morally obligating ones, so they have to have some way of learning this by looking at what happens around them,” said senior study author Rebecca Saxe, of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For the study, her team observed babies and toddlers as they watched staged interactions between people and puppets. The babies were 8-1/2 to 10 months of age and the toddlers were 16-1/2 to 18-1/2 months old.

In one set of experiments, a puppet shared an orange with one actor, then tossed a ball back and forth with another actor.

After the little ones watched these interactions, researchers watched their reactions when the puppet showed distress while sitting between the two actors.

Based on results of animal studies, they expected the youngsters would look first at the person they expected to help.

Not so. Researchers found the children were more likely to look toward the actor who shared food with the puppet, not the one who shared a toy.

In the second set of experiments, which focused on saliva, the actor either placed her finger in her mouth and then into the mouth of the puppet, or placed her finger on her forehead and then, on the puppet's. When the actor later expressed distress while standing between the puppets, children were more likely to look toward the puppet with whom she had shared saliva.

The findings suggest that saliva sharing helps infants learn about social relationships, researchers said. It helps babies identify the people who are most likely to look after their needs.

“The general skill of learning about social relationships is very useful,” said lead author Ashley Thomas, a postdoctoral student at MIT. “One reason why this distinction between thick and thin [relationships] might be important for infants in particular, especially human infants, who depend on adults for longer than many other species, is that it might be a good way to figure out who else can provide the support that they depend on to survive."

Researchers plan similar studies with infants in cultures that have different family structures. They also want to use brain imaging to investigate what parts of the adult brain are involved in making saliva-based assessments about social relationships.

The findings were published Jan. 20 in the journal Science.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on babies' emotional and social development.

SOURCE: MIT, news release, Jan. 20, 2022

0 Comments
0
0
0
0
0

Originally published on consumer.healthday.com, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.

Build your health & fitness knowledge

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

SCL Health Medical Group has opened the first primary care clinic in Lockwood, serving the 8,000 people who live there. The facility is located on the Lockwood Schools campus. 

Whether it’s minor annoyances like scraped knees, ankle sprains, nagging blisters and seasonal allergies or more major medical issues like large lacerations, broken bones, dehydration or worse, we should be prepared.

The white gunman charged in a deadly, racist rampage inside a Buffalo supermarket didn’t need to travel abroad for tactical training, nor did he need to join an organization of like-minded militants who shared his world view. All Payton Gendron needed on his path to radicalization was exposure on the internet to a stew of hate-filled conspiracies, peddled in some cases by white killers whose massacres he had extensively researched online. The 18-year-old now stands accused in a murderous assault that left 10 Black people dead, and the rant-filled diatribe attributed to him fits an all-too-familiar profile — an aggrieved white man driven to violence by racist extremism.

Selena Gomez joined first lady Jill Biden and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy at the White House on Wednesday for a conversation about youth mental health. The singer/actor has been public about her own struggles. In 2020, Gomez revealed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Gomez, Biden and Murthy held a conversation with a group of young people who shared how they had improved their own mental health. The strategies they shared ranged from finding a therapist to using baking as a way to encourage conversation with others. Biden praised the courage she said it took for them to come forward.

Dr. Scott Jensen, a skeptic of the government’s response to COVID-19, has won the Minnesota GOP’s endorsement to challenge Democratic Gov. Tim Walz in the November election. After a wild ride, Jensen went over the top on the ninth ballot with 65% of the vote. Jensen led on the first two ballots, then regained the lead on the seventh ballot. Jensen’s comeback ended a surge by business executive Kendall Qualls, who fell to 33% on the final ballot after taking the lead on the fourth. Minnesota GOP Chairman David Hann says he does not expect Jensen to face a serious challenge in the Aug. 9 primary,

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News