Friday, December 30, 2011
Strangers are more likely to return lost wallets containing photos of cute babies, according to British researchers. The scientists sprinkled 240 wallets across Edinburgh last year with pictures of either a smiling baby, a puppy, a "happy family," or a "contended elderly couple." It turns out nobody cares about your pooch, retired parents, or smugly superior family life. But that cute wittle baby? Apparently it triggers a "compassionate instinct towards vulnerable infants that people have evolved to ensure the survival of future generations." Finally, an everyday use for evolution!
When faced with the photograph of the baby people were far more likely to send the wallet back, the study found. In fact, only one in ten were hearthearted enough not to do so. With no picture to tug at the emotions, just one in seven were sent back.
According to Dr Wiseman the result reflects a compassionate instinct towards vulnerable infants that people have evolved to ensure the survival of future generations. "The baby kicked off a caring feeling in people, which is not surprising from an evolutionary perspective," he said.
Scientists argue that it would be difficult to genetically code for feeling empathy exclusively towards your own child and much easier to code for feeling empathy towards all children. If you find a baby alone, there is a good chance it belongs to you, making it an effective evolutionary trait, said Dr Wiseman.